pastors sue AME church over missing retirement funds | Florida News
By MIKE SCHNEIDER, Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Retired pastors have filed at least two federal lawsuits in recent weeks against the African Methodist Episcopal Church as well as several subsidiaries and financial companies used by the church, alleging tens of millions of dollars of a pension fund were mismanaged and disappeared.
Retired pastors from Florida and Maryland filed lawsuits against the oldest historically black denomination in the United States late last month. They are seeking class action status on behalf of thousands of other AME pastors and church leaders across the United States who have lost money through the pension fund.
The pastors, who have all worked around a quarter of a century for the church and were required to participate in the pension scheme, said they were unable to access their money.
The lawsuit filed by Florida pastor Reverend Charles Jackson in Orlando alleges that the church and its related financial institutions were negligent and breached their fiduciary responsibilities. Jackson is seeking a jury trial and punitive damages in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Tennessee.
“Many of the group – including Reverend Jackson – are retired and suddenly learned that the resources they relied on to support themselves, which they could rely on in times of poor health and to simply enjoy during their retirement, had been stolen from them by people they trusted,” the lawsuit said.
In his lawsuit, the Reverend Cedric Alexander of Bowie Maryland, said the chairman of the church’s pension fund invested money in undeveloped land in Florida and a venture capital firm today disappeared, and had given a promissory note to a solar panel installer. . The lawsuit alleges violations of a federal law protecting employee retirement funds.
The president of the church’s retirement fund “invested plan assets in reckless and extremely risky investments that ultimately lost nearly $100 million of plan participants’ retirement savings,” the lawsuit said. Maryland.
The church did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Tuesday. However, in a message posted on its website late last month, the church acknowledged that the participants in the pension fund “may have been victims of a financial crime”.
After a new administrator of the church’s Pension Services Department took office last year, financial “irregularities” were discovered in some retirement fund investments. The church has hired an outside law firm and forensic experts to conduct an investigation, the statement said.
“The AME Church takes financial irregularities and disclosures seriously, and we are committed to restoring all affected pension funds,” the statement said. “We are also committed to returning each fund participant whole by restoring their entire investment plus interest.”
Jackson, 72, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that he felt betrayed.
“When you take advantage of my money, you lose my trust,” Jackson said. “You lose the trust of your employees.”
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