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Ex-Bitwise Employees Can Access 401(k)s, Says Former Company Exec

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A message to former Bitwise employees said they can access their 401(k) contributions after the matter had been up in the air following the company's demise. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)
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The retirement money former Bitwise employees had been stashing during their tenure with the now-defunct tech company appears to be available again.

Since the company’s demise, many employees feared that the company’s leadership had illegally squandered their retirement investments.

“The day that so many of us have waited for has finally arrived!” said Chrystine Villarreal, former president of Bitwise’s nonprofit arm, in a message to employees. “The 401k’s with John Hancock have officially been unlocked and they are starting to process withdrawals or rollovers into other 401k’s.”

Villarreal said she had gotten the information from bankruptcy lawyers Wednesday morning.

However, while the retirement money appears to be moving forward, the availability of tax filing documents is less clear.

Click here for GV Wire’s coverage of Bitwise.

Seven to 10 Days for 401(k) Distributions

Employees can submit a request to 401(k) management company John Hancock for access to funds. Once requests are approved, the company estimates distributions to take seven to 10 days.

With no word on whether W-2s will be available by the tax filing deadline, how employees can submit financial information to the IRS is unclear. A pro-bono tax preparer had told Villarreal the best solution may be adding up and submitting information from pay stubs.

Doing so may result in inaccuracies, resulting in many employees having to file amended tax returns, Villarreal said.

Will Employees Get Everything Bank They Think They Contributed?

Former employees have been unable to access their 401(k)s since the Fresno company declared bankruptcy in June 2023. Several employees accused the company of not depositing money into 401(k) retirement accounts.

One former employee feared the amount they contributed would not be what they received.

The bankruptcy court hired an employment benefit firm to investigate those claims.

In a previous interview with GV Wire, attorney Mark Felger, with law firm Cozen O’Connor, said he did not want a situation where the only employees who get money back are the ones who file first.

Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.