We have actually seen this sort of mess before. As a long-time shareholder of Westmoreland Coal, I know more than I ever wanted to learn about UMW pension benefits, pneumoconiosis, and other things that nearly sank WLB. Before Westmoreland, the various steel companies that went toes-up in the 1970s and 80s experienced the same problems, and now the airlines are about to shuffle down that particular ramp. There are some common features in all these failures: defined-benefit plans, unions that hosed their new members in order to placate retirees, and companies that really didn't know how to function in a regulatory & economic environment where the rules had changed, knocking them off the top of the pile. The only reason we didn't see this sort of thing with K-Mart is that retailers usually don't have a lot of people sticking with the company long enough to qualfy for pensions to begin with. Qwest retirees, on the other hand, can tell you all about this sort of nonsense.
As digex said in his comments to the original post, this is fraud and should be punished accordingly. In my opinion what's sauce for the corporate geese should be sauce for the Congressional gander as well.