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Home » Officer Columns » AFM Pension Fund: The Retiree Representative and Equitable Factors Panel

AFM Pension Fund: The Retiree Representative and Equitable Factors Panel

  -  AFM International President

The American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund (Fund) has faced financial difficulties since the global 2007-2008 recession. Similar to dozens of other pension plans, the Fund is now underfunded and will be unable to pay benefits at the level projected in the pre-recession financial market. The Fund’s history of financial struggles is available here. The Fund is in the process of evaluating various options to reduce a portion of participants’ benefits in order to remain financially solvent.

The Fund’s board of trustees recently appointed Brad C. Eggen, president of Local 30-73 (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN) to act as the Retiree Representative, a position created by the 2014 law called the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA). His role is to apply the statutory list of equitable factors in the best interests of the retirees and present his viewpoint to the Fund trustees and the US Department of the Treasury. Retiree Representative Eggen is a participant and is currently receiving benefits from the Fund. He has taken on the role of the retiree representative as a volunteer. He is not a member of the board of trustees and will not have a vote in any decision made by the board. He will, however, have an independent voice in the process, supported by independent legal counsel and independent actuarial review and advice.

As the retiree representative, Eggen is tasked with the responsibility to advocate for the interests of retirees and terminated vested participants throughout the benefit reduction plan process. He has set up an office as a resource for the retirees, where he will receive and process all participant communications, coordinate his review of the Fund operations and benefit reduction plans, and distribute information to the retirees and terminated vested participants. He will work closely with his own legal counsel and actuary to review and monitor the entire benefit reduction plan process. He will analyze the proposed reduction plan and provide information to the retirees and terminated vested participants about the potential impact the plan may have on the group. Please visit his website for up-to-date information at

One of the key responsibilities of the retiree representative is to communicate with the retirees and terminated vested participants throughout the design, application, and approval process for a plan to reduce benefits under the MPRA. There are approximately 25,000 retirees and terminated vested participants. The AFM-EPF spans the entire United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada. The law requires the benefit reduction plan to be equitably distributed across the participant and beneficiary population. The statute and regulations provide examples of 11 different factors that may be considered as part of the deliberation of whether the plan is equitable, including, for example, the amount of benefit, the type of benefit, and the history of benefit increases and reductions.

Recognizing the magnitude of this task, Brad has assembled a panel of plan participants—the Equitable Factors Panel—to assist him in outreach to the retirees and terminated vested participants. The panel members come from a variety of disciplines including theater, symphony orchestra, live television, and studio recording. Panel members are as follows:

Maura Giannini. Giannini is both a musician and an attorney. She graduated with a Bachelor of Music and a Master of Music from Manhattan School of Music. She was a student of Raphael Bronstein. She obtained her law degree from Rutgers School of Law, Newark, New Jersey. Early in her career, for nearly a decade, she was a tenured violinist with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. Since that time, she has maintained a career as a New York freelance musician performing with the New York City Opera, Opera Orchestra of New York, New Jersey Opera Association, symphonic music with the American Symphony Orchestra and other freelance orchestras, and chamber music.

She has performed extensively on Broadway, performing in more than 100 Broadway musicals. She also performed with the New York City Center Encore’s Orchestra and has recorded jingles, TV themes, records, films, and cast albums for a variety of artists. She has appeared in live concerts with numerous artists in the US, Canada, and Europe. In addition, she has performed on and recorded TV shows including Live with David Letterman, The Today Show, The View, The Grammy Awards, PBS, and Jerry Lewis telethons. Giannini practiced law for a number of years, leaving the full-time practice of law in the ’90s. She still represents various individual musicians in labor disputes.

She served 16 years on the Local 802 (New York City) Executive Board, participating in numerous subcommittees including finance, by-law, and public relations.

She was an active member of the New York Broadway Theater Musicians Committee, acting as chair of the 2003 Broadway negotiation, and has been involved in other labor negotiations at Local 802. She held office in the AFM Theater Musicians Associations and was a NY Theater Committee delegate. She has also served as a Local 802 delegate to AFM conventions.

Brad Buckley. Buckley started his career with the Jacksonville, Florida, symphony while attending Florida State University. He graduated with a Bachelor of Music Education and Performers Certificate in Bassoon from Florida State University. After service with the United States Army Band (Pershing’s Own) in Washington DC, he joined the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra as the contrabassoon and utility bassoon player. He retired from the SLSO after performing with the orchestra for 45 years. While living in St. Louis, he was adjunct professor of bassoon at Washington University in St. Louis, and resident artist in bassoon at Lindenwood University.

During his career with the SLSO, he served as chairman of the St. Louis Symphony Musicians Council, trustee of the St. Louis Symphony Musicians Internal Pension plan, vice president of St. Louis Local 2-197 AFM, vice-chairman of the International Conference of Symphony Opera and Ballet Musicians (ICSOM), chairman of ICSOM, and chairman of the ICSOM Media Committee. He lives in Orange Park, Florida, and is secretary-treasurer of AFM Local 444 in Jacksonville, Florida.

John Hobbs. A first-call session keyboardist for over three decades, John Hobbs has contributed to modern country classics such as Reba McEntire’s “Whoever’s in New England,” George Strait’s “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind,” and Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One.” His credits also include work with pop stars Michael Bolton, Toni Braxton, David Cassidy, and Olivia Newton-John. One of the most respected keyboard players in country music, Hobbs was one of Nashville’s elite session musicians, contributing to contemporary recordings by Brooks & Dunn, Deana Carter, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Kenny Rogers, and many others. In the 1970s, Hobbs began making a name for himself in the L.A. music scene. He scored TV shows and films and played on records for George Jones, Tom Jones, Barry Manilow, Olivia Newton-John, Charlie Rich, Lionel Richie, and many other pop and country artists. Hobbs also served as musical director for the Academy of Country Music Awards from 1984 to 1995.

In 2000, Hobbs began his tenure as Vince Gill’s bandleader and continued to be a first-call keyboardist for Nashville recording sessions. He recorded with Trace Adkins, Brooks & Dunn, Keb’ Mo’, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Chris Young, and numerous other artists. Hobbs has earned the Academy of Country Music’s Keyboard Player of the Year Award 11 times. Retired since 2015, he currently lives in Taos, New Mexico.

Mike Merritt. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-born and bred bassist Mike Merritt recently concluded 25 years as the house band bassist on all of Conan O’ Brien’s late night TV shows, starting with Late Night and The Tonight Show on NBC, and concluding with Conan on TBS. Merritt has toured and recorded with Grammy-winning bluesman Johnny Copeland, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Johnnie Johnson, and was an original member of Grammy-winner Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble Band.

Merritt was influenced and guided by his father, legendary jazz bassist Jymie Merritt, of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. He has performed with artists like Chuck Berry, Ruth Brown, David Johansen, Hubert Sumlin, Son Seals, Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny, Phoebe Snow, Keely Smith, Al Kooper, Garland Jeffreys, Robert Palmer, Shemekia Copeland, Joan Osborne, John Sebastian, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Vivino, Slash, Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart, and many others.

Retiree Representative Eggen will meet with the panel and share information he receives from retirees and terminated vested participants. The panel will be a resource for him to better understand the benefit reduction plan’s impact on retirees and terminated vested participants as well as the impact on the Fund’s future.

• Brad is consulting with the panel as various plans are proposed and discussed by the trustees.

• The panel is one of many resources he will utilize to perform his duties.

• Communications should go through the retiree representative office not to the panel directly.

• Panel members are volunteers.

• The panel will function similar to a focus group.

Retiree Representative Eggen needs to hear from you. Visit to learn how to contact him and find links to relevant information throughout this process. The website will be updated as new information becomes available. He encourages you to express your thoughts and opinions on the process.

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