U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Delphi retirees’ case

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear arguments that Delphi salaried retirees were wronged when the federally controlled Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. took over and in many cases reduced their pensions.

The decision likely ends more than 12 years of court battles by Delphi salaried retirees seeking to be made whole.

The high court handed down its order Tuesday that denied the Delphi retirees’ request that the justices hear their case.

“The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied,” the court ruled. Such a writ would have paved the way for a review of a previous ruling, by the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which upheld the government termination of the salaried retirees’ pension plans.

The retirees had asked the nation’s top court last summer to review the case.

Tom Rose, a Washington Twp. resident and Delphi retiree, was taking in the news Tuesday. He and his fellow retirees understood that the odds were probably against them. “We were taking on the federal bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.”

“We’re very disappointed, of course. This most likely ends our legal journey,” Rose said.

“I am deeply frustrated that once again, the Delphi salaried retirees are being denied an opportunity to restore their hard-earned retirement benefits,” a longtime ally of the retirees, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said in a statement. “However, this decision will not stop me from pursuing legislative remedies and urging the Biden administration to get them the answers and treatment they deserve.”

A bit of the history

Auto parts producer and one-time Dayton manufacturer Delphi (now Aptiv Plc) filed for bankruptcy in October 2005. General Motors, which used to own Delphi, went through its own bankruptcy journey four years later.

An association of retired Delphi salaried employees sued the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. in 2009 after the agency took over employee pensions in the wake of Delphi’s bankruptcy.

The relinquishment of the pensions to the PBGC left Delphi salaried retirees with greatly diminished pensions, which stung particularly because GM continued contributing to the pensions of union-represented retirees, under the guidance of the then-new Obama administration.

The salaried retirees never begrudged their hourly counterparts their full pensions — they just wanted the same treatment.

The courts were never kind to the retirees’ legal efforts, however. A U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision sided with a March 2019 Michigan federal court ruling that dismissed the retirees’ lawsuit against the PBGC.

The retirees’ association had approached the Supreme Court to see if the nation’s top court would take the case.

However, some observers have long felt this is a job for Congress.

“What happened 10 years ago was a tragedy, but what has happened since has been a scam because the politicians won’t do the one thing that will get the pensions back,” Joshua Gotbaum, who led the PBGC from late 2010 until 2014, told the Dayton Daily News more than a year ago.

In November, 17 members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, filed an amicus brief backing the retirees’ request.

Close to 5,200 affected retirees live in Ohio, with about a third of them in Turner’s 10th District, according to his communications director MacKenzie Morales. The 10th District includes Montgomery, Greene and Fayette counties.

“The Delphi salaried retirees deserve the full value of the retirement benefits promised to them after decades of honest work,” Turner said in a November release.

The brief was co-signed by 15 other members of Congress, including fellow Ohio Republicans U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot and Bill Johnson; Democratic Ohio U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan; and three Democratic and eight Republican representatives from eight other states.

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