I've been working for AT&T for two years and nine months with a cliff vesting of 3 years my vesting date is April 15, 2016. It was recently announced on December 18, 2015 that IBM would be aquiring the business of AT&T that I work in managed services (http://about.att.com/story/att_and_ibm_expand_strategic_relationship.html). At this time I'm not fully vested and have been told by AT&T that all my unvested dollars will be will be forfeited at the time that I move over to IBM. Please advise what are my rights as an employee since I had no decision on moving to IBM and was required by AT&T to move the IBM as there's no other job opportunities available for me at AT&T. So my question is is there a protection from ERISA regarding me losing out on the matched unvested money in my 401(k)? I will roughly be about 2 months from being fully vested when the acquisition is finalized.

  • Wow, that sucks! Perhaps contact a law firm that does ERISA class action suits and see if they're interested. I wouldn't assume that just because they're both big companies that what they're doing is legal.
    – Todd
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 18:54
  • I have been through an acquisition and that's how they implemented it. It would be nice if the acquiring or selling parent company would make the employees whole, but, there's no law requiring it. Do you know what the official transfer date will be? Just because it's been announced doesn't mean it will happen immediately. If it takes long enough you might vest after all.
    – stannius
    Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 0:43

2 Answers 2


Probably not. If you were at a small company and asked such a question, you'd get advice and links to erisa or other case law, etc. it's safe to say that a Fortune 500 company such as IBM is going to have their facts in order, and not going to run afoul of the rules in these cases (vesting rules and takeover of other company).

I was in a company that cancelled its pension program. Those of us with the required years got the option of a lump sum payout, those with less than 5 years had no vested value and got nothing. One month longer employment, in the case of a particular coworker, would have given him a lump sum worth nearly 6 months pay.


Unfortunately, the money that is not vested is not yours. It belongs to your employer. They have promised to give it to you after you have been with the company for a certain length of time, but if you aren't still with the company after that time, no matter what the reason, the money never becomes yours.

Sorry to hear about this. It would have been nice if your company had waived the vesting requirement like this guy's employer did, but I don't think they are required to do so, unfortunately.

If it's a lot of money, you could ask an attorney, but as @JoeTaxpayer said, AT&T and IBM probably know what they are doing.

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