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Benefits After Death

Companies that lost employees in the World Trade Center attack have been piecing together benefits packages for the victims' families, but the extent of the relief effort varies widely.

One company is pledging health care coverage for the families through 2006. Another is promising each family at least $100,000, taken from profits usually paid to senior partners.

Many of the plans include some continuation of pay and insurance coverage, as well as assurances that nonprofit foundations set up by the companies will be there to help.

But some firms are drawing narrower limits on continued pay and benefits.

Uncertainty about everything from tax implications to locating records lost in the attack has made the job more complex, executives at some of the companies said.

"It's been not only a difficult time, but a complicated time," said William Pitt, a spokesman for the Marsh & McLennan Cos., which lost 292 of 1,700 employees based in the World Trade Center.

Some firms would not discuss details of benefits packages for survivors, citing not just the need for privacy, but the heated public criticism leveled at one firm, Cantor Fitzgerald, by some survivors angered at its handling of payouts.

"We see a lot of very public stuff between some companies and survivors and not all of it has been very pretty," said Jim Connelly, executive vice president at Fred Alger Management Inc., which lost 35 employees in the attacks. "We want to keep it very private between the families and the firm."

Companies willing to disclose specifics describe varying benefits packages.

Nearly all the companies have offered families an extension of victims' salaries. Companies including Marsh and Sandler O'Neill & Partners, which lost 66 of 170 employees at the center, say they are paying those salaries through the end of this year, but as a lump sum.

Aon Corp., about 200 of whose employees are confirmed dead or missing, say they will continue salaries through most of this month.

With pay on Wall Street often reliant largely on year-end bonuses, some companies say they also intend to make those payments to families. Cantor, criticized for its slowness in making such payments, says it will send out checks matching last year's bonuses to families of administrative workers by Oct. 22. Families of employees working on commission should expect those checks by Nov. 22, the company said.

Sandler also plans to pay bonuses, but is sorting through specifics with an eye toward easing tax burdens on families, said Fred Price, the company's chief operating officer.

Many of the companies also are pledging to cover health insurance costs for families of lost workers.

Cantor says it will donate 25 percent of its profits over the next five years, money that would have gone to partners, to support families of the more than 700 workers killed.

Sandler says it has already arranged health care coverage for the families through December 2006. Marsh says it wil cover insurance costs for the next year.

Most of the firms that lost large number of workers also have set up foundations to accept donations on behalf of victims' families, and some have made that a focus of their benefits efforts.

In addition, several companies have matched families with financial advisers or personnel managers to sort through money worries or benefit questions.

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