Salaried retirees of Delphi fighting for their full pensions for half a decade see hope in a five-page ruling issued Monday from a federal court in Detroit.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow directed the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. to release all documents requested by salaried retirees in their lawsuit to restore their full pensions.
While Delphi was in bankruptcy protection in 2009, it relinquished responsibility for all its employee pensions to the federally backed PBGC. That move resulted in lower pension payments to retirees. But while General Motors — which once owned Delphi — contributed to union-represented retirees to bolster their pensions, salaried retirees were left with substantially reduced pensions, some cut by up to 70 percent.
Some 2,000 Delphi retirees in the Dayton area and about 20,000 nationally have been affected, according to some estimates.
On Monday, Tarnow directed the PBGC to comply with an earlier ruling and to turn over key documents the agency had been withholding under the shield of “privilege,” a legal term covering documents the PBGC believed it was able to withhold from scrutiny by the retirees’ attorneys.
“It’s clear the court is losing patience,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said in a press conference at his Dayton office Tuesday. Turner spoke after meeting privately with at least 10 Dayton-area Delphi salaried retirees.
Tarnow’s ruling was at times blunt. “PBGC has been under court order since March 9, 2012 to respond to plaintiff’s (salaried retirees’) discovery requests and has only asserted boilerplate objections,” he wrote.
“PBGC is reviewing Judge Tarnow’s ruling and appropriate responses to it,” PBGC spokesman Marc Hopkins said in an email.
Turner said the next step is ensuring that the Obama administration “actually answers” the salaried retirees’ lawsuit.
The retirees contend that the Obama administration “picked winners and losers” as it helped guide GM through its own 2009 stint in bankruptcy protection. They charge that the administration helped ensure that union pensions were bolstered or “topped off,” while salaried pensions were ignored. Topping off hourly pensions was never a legal obligation for GM while it was going through bankruptcy, they argue.
“The truth is beginning to emerge,” said Tom Rose, a Washington Twp. resident who worked for GM and Delphi for 39 years.
Also Tuesday, Turner said he wrote President Barack Obama, urging him to appoint a new PBGC director who will be “committed to transparency (and) accountability.” Josh Gotbaum, current PBGC director, said recently he will retire next month.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also applauded Tarnow’s ruling. “I am very hopeful that today’s ruling is a step toward regaining their (retirees’) financial security and bringing this matter to a long-overdue, fair and equitable resolution,” Portman said in a statement.
Salaried retirees also lamented the loss at the end of 2013 of the Health Care Tax Credit, a tax credit for health insurance premiums for retirees receiving PBGC payments. Tom Green, a Springboro resident and also a GM/Delphi retiree, said the loss of the credit has forced some retirees into bankruptcy. The credit was not made available this year.
Still, retirees said they intend to press their fight for pension restoration, no matter how long it takes.
“I don’t think anybody in Washington expected us to be standing here five years” ago, Green said at Turner’s press conference.
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