Powerful Ways and Means Committee joins Delphi probe

One of most powerful committees in Congress is looking into how the pensions of Delphi’s non-union retirees were handled.

Staff members for the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee are poring over documents from the U.S. Treasury and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. on the disposition of pensions for thousands of Delphi’s salaried retirees, said Sarah Swinehart, a committee spokeswoman.

Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., requested that the Obama administration provide the records, including e-mails to and from the Treasury Department and the PBGC, as well as the president’s own executive office, Commerce and Labor departments and other agencies, Swinehart said.

The documents were delivered to the committee in recent days. The retirees have been fighting three years to have their full pensions restored.

The Ways and Means Committee traditionally handles legislation on taxes and revenue. The retirees and their allies in Congress welcome the committee’s involvement.

“The more we’re able to turn up the heat on the administration, the more likely these pensions are going to be restored,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, said in an email to the Dayton Daily News Wednesday. “Chairman Camp’s involvement furthers that goal.”

The Obama administration has said it played no role in the decision to cut the retirees’ pensions.

Delphi makes auto parts and one of its biggest customers is General Motors. In 2009, a bankrupt Delphi turned over its pension obligations to the PBGC. The federally backed agency uses a complex formula to determine how much of the once-private pensions it will pay, but such a move usually results in lower pension payments.

The PBGC’s takeover resulted in the retirees’ pensions being cut 30 to 70 percent. The cuts affected more than 20,000 retirees nationwide, including about 700 in the Dayton area.

Swinehart said pension oversight is one responsibility of the Ways and Means Committee, and Camp himself has a “significant number” of Delphi salaried retirees living in his Michigan district.

“I would say it is the next step in our continued involvement in this issue in an effort for transparency, so that these Delphi employees can have answers as to why their pension benefits were terminated, while some of their coworkers were not,” Swinehart said.

Retirees represented by the United Auto Workers had their pensions “topped off” by GM, meaning GM paid the difference between lower PBGC payments and the full amounts.