Forfeit a Pension

The Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act 1978-140 (Act 140) applies to all SERS members who commit certain crimes in relation to their employment. Enforcement of Act 140 is mandatory. Pennsylvania courts have held that SERS has no discretion in its application. It does not matter if the crime is relatively minor compared to the value of pension benefits; if Act 140 is triggered, it must be applied.

The Pennsylvania Constitution and Judicial Code also contain forfeiture provisions that apply to members of the judiciary, for whom forfeiture can occur even if no crime has been committed.

Act 140

Act 140 requires forfeiture of all pension and retirement benefits by any SERS member who commits certain crimes. Also forfeited are any benefits for the member's beneficiaries and survivor annuitants. The only benefits Act 140 allows a SERS member to receive are his or her contributions paid into the pension fund, without interest. Even these may be lost, however, because they can be used to pay fines and restitution associated with the criminal conviction.

Act 140 is triggered if a SERS member is convicted of, pleads guilty, or has no defense to any listed crime committed through the member's public office or position or when public employment puts the member in a position to commit the crime.

Pennsylvania crimes covered by Act 140 are found in 43 P.S. Section 1312. Federal crimes that are substantially the same as the Pennsylvania crimes are also covered by Act 140.

To paraphrase, they are:

  • Any of the criminal offenses set forth in Subchapter B of Chapter 31 (relating to definition of offenses) when the criminal offense is committed by a school employee as defined in 24 Pa. C.S. Section 8102 (relating to definitions) against a student
  • Section 3922 (relating to theft by deception) when the criminal culpability reaches the level of a misdemeanor of the first degree or higher
  • Section 3923 (relating to theft by extortion) when the criminal culpability reaches the level of a misdemeanor of the first degree or higher
  • Section 3926 (relating to theft of services) when the criminal culpability reaches the level of a misdemeanor of the first degree or higher
  • Section 3927 (relating to theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received), when the criminal culpability reaches the level of a misdemeanor of the first degree or higher
  • Section 4101 (relating to forgery)
  • Section 4104 (relating to tampering with records or identification)
  • Section 4113 (relating to misapplication of entrusted property and property of government or financial institutions) when the criminal culpability reaches the level of misdemeanor of the second degree
  • Section 4701 (relating to bribery in official and political matters)
  • Section 4702 (relating to threats and other improper influence in official and political matters)
  • Section 4902 (relating to perjury)
  • Section 4903(a) (relating to false swearing)
  • Section 4904 (relating to unsworn falsification to authorities)
  • Section 4906 (relating to false reports to law enforcement authorities)
  • Section 4909 (relating to witness or informant taking bribe)
  • Section 4910 (relating to tampering with or fabricating physical evidence)
  • Section 4911 (relating to tampering with public records or information)
  • Section 4952 (relating to intimidation of witnesses or victims)
  • Section 4953 (relating to retaliation against witness, victim or party)
  • Section 5101 (relating to obstructing administration of law or other governmental function)
  • Section 5301 (relating to official oppression)
  • Section 5302 (relating to speculating or wagering on official action or information)
  • Article III, act of March 4, 1971 (P.L. 6, No. 2), known as the "Tax Reform Code of 1971"
Judicial Forfeitures

In addition to Act 140 forfeitures, Article V, Section 16(b) of the Pennsylvania Constitution defines additional pension forfeitures which apply to justices, judges, and members of the minor judiciary:

Except as provided by law, no salary, retirement benefit or other compensation, present or deferred, shall be paid to any justice, judge or justice of the peace who, under Section 18 or under Article VI, is suspended, removed or barred from holding judicial office for conviction of a felony or misconduct in office or conduct which prejudices the proper administration of justice or brings the judicial office into disrepute.

In addition to the constitutional forfeiture provision, the General Assembly has codified a judicial forfeiture provision into the Judicial Code at 42 Pa. C.S. Section 3352:

Former and retired judges and magisterial district judges shall receive such compensation as shall be provided by or pursuant to statute. No salary, retirement benefit or other compensation shall be paid to any judge or magisterial district judge who is suspended or removed from office under Section 18 of Article V or under Article VI of the Constitution of Pennsylvania.