Pensioners Complain of More TIAA-CREF Glitches

Updated: The continuing problems with the system are reportedly causing some customers to receive far too much money.

While some TIAA-CREF customers reported IT issues that resulted in them not being able to access their retirement funds, others have come forward to say that they are receiving far too much money.

Its not clear exactly what the system issues are.

eWEEK initially reported late last month that TIAA-CREF (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund) pensioners were not receiving funds dispursements, with some checks nearly a month overdue.

While those same customers said last week that their issues have been resolved—and the huge retirement investment company has said its IT issues causing the problems are behind them—others have confirmed continuing problems as of Dec. 8.

"The first sign of the problem was when IRA payments from TIAA to my wife and me were not made on schedule in mid-November," said a TIAA-CREF user who sent an e-mail to eWEEK.

"I called and was told that they would be made shortly. They were, but the payments that were made were 100 times too large!"

The TIAA-CREF customer said that he and his wife both received payments in excess of 100 times what they were owed.

Instead of scheduled $600 payments, both recipients received automatic electronic deposits into their accounts for $60,000 each.

"It was approaching the end of November by now," said the customer in his e-mail.

"I called TIAA again and explained. They apologized and said it would be taken care of. But instead of taking care of it, they did the same thing again with our end-of-November payments."

Both the customer and his wife received deposits from TIAA-CREF totaling more than $100,000.

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The customer requested TIAA-CREF stop all payments to both IRA accounts.

Meanwhile, the erroneous payments from one account were reversed—though the reversal has not been reflected with TIAA-CREF statements—while the other account remains intact (with all that extra cash).

"It has not been corrected," said the customer. "If TIAA is saying that everything has been fixed, it is not true."

The IT issue with TIAA-CREF became public just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, on Nov. 22, when frustrated pensioners contacted eWEEK via e-mail, saying that their funds disbursement checks were not being processed.

TIAA-CREF spokesperson Glen Weiner said at the time that there had been minor delays in a small number of transactions—and that corrective actions were near completion.

The following week Weiner said in a second statement that the matter had been settled.

"The issue has been resolved and the checks have gone out," said Weiner, in an e-mail. "Technological and human resources were brought to bear to resolve it. We dont foresee this being a problem in the future."

However, eWEEK has continued to receive messages that issues are persistent.

One caller said, anonymously, that TIAA-CREF has "questionable practices" and has vowed to forward documents confirming the statement. Those documents have not yet been received by eWEEK.

New York City–based TIAA-CREF is one of the largest private retirement systems in the United States, with more than 3 million members from the academic community, and about 15,000 institutional investors.

Officials last week declined to provide any additional details regarding the issues, or to comment on their customers continuing frustrations.

Industry analysts are not surprised by TIAA-CREFs reticence to discuss internal issues with the media.

The financial services industry in general—which deals with other peoples money—is secretive.

"I havent heard of anything this botched, ever," said Maggie Scarborough, an analyst with Financial Insights, an IDC Company, in Framingham, Mass. "You just dont hear of these kinds of outages anymore, and when you do, heads roll."

The system issues at TIAA-CREF have caused consternation not only with some customers, but with technology partners as well.

NaviSys Inc., a company that provides annuity and application processing software to TIAA-CREF, said last week that the issues with the financial firm are "in no way related to the solutions and projects that NaviSys is providing to TIAA-CREF," said Gail Nelson, vice president of marketing at NaviSys, in Edison, N.J.

"Were doing annuities and not pensions or IRAs or other repetitive systems," said Nelson. "And we have assurances from TIAA-CREF that its not our system."

TIAA-CREFs Weiner said Friday in a statement that the company is "confident that we have addressed the technical glitch that led to these delays. We are now doing our best to resolve any remaining delays to the satisfaction of affected participants and are reaching out to each one of them individually. We encourage anyone who is still experiencing a delay to let us know. Like all companies, we are updating our systems to improve service."

Editors Note: This story was updated to include comments from TIAA-CREF spokesperson Glen Weiner.

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