A union that represents former Washington Star news and commercial department employes asserted yesterday that Time Inc. is "seeking to siphon off" assets from an employe benefits trust fund which The Star maintained for its employes.
The Washington-Baltmore Newspaper Guild alleged in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of more than 1,000 actual and potential beneficiaries of the fund that shortly after Time's July 23 announcement that The Star would cease publication on Aug. 7, Time Inc. amended a section of the Evening Star Employees' Benefit Plan that would divert about $4 million in surplus funds from the trust's beneficiaries to Time Inc.
The fund, which Guild attorney Robert E. Paul estimated amounted to $15 to $20 million, was created in 1918 by The Star, and funded by employer contributions. Proceeds were distributed to retired employes.
Paul said that Time changed the trust agreement on July 29 so that after the trust fund is terminated, any excess funds will be returned to Time Inc. instead of distributed to the fund's beneficiaries.
The suit asks that administration of the trust fund be placed under court supervision and that any funds which "reverted impermissibly" to Time Inc. be returned to the beneficiaries of the trust fund.
"Time is trying to reap the benefits of monies that were contributed over the course of the last 60 or 70 years that accrued through wise investments of the fund, monies which truly belong to participants and beneficiaries of the fund," Paul said.
Time spokesman Louis Slovinsky said that none of any excess "is coming back to Time" and that any "excess amount in the benefit plan will be used to comply with our obligations to the former employes."
The lawsuit against The Star and Time Inc. was filed on behalf of all present and former Star employes who are potential beneficiaries of the fund, Paul said.