Sen. Portman questions nominee on pensions

The man nominated to fill the U.S. Treasury secretary post is being questioned about the treasury department’s involvement in decisions to cut the pensions of thousands of Delphi salaried retirees.

Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio on Wednesday submitted questions about the Delphi issue for the Senate Finance Committee hearing considering the nomination of Jacob Lew.

During General Motors’ bankruptcy in 2009, Delphi’s defined benefit pension plan was terminated and Delphi workers lost an estimated 30 to 70 percent in benefits. The Auto Policy Task Force, however, decided to “top up” the pension benefits of union retirees, but not those of the 20,000 salaried retirees.

Delphi was a former subsidiary of the automaker.

An economic impact study by Youngstown State University found that decreased retiree income and benefits will cost the Youngstown area about $58 million per year in lost economic activity and the Dayton area about $80 million per year.

Thousands of families are still left ”wondering why they did not receive the benefits promised to help them care for their families after years of hard work,” Portman said Wednesday. “I am concerned by the lack of transparency throughout this process, and will continue to push the administration to answer tough questions regarding the unfair treatment of Delphi retirees.”

Portman submitted three questions for the Congressional Record:

l As General Motors Corp.’s primary lender in bankruptcy, the Treasury Department played a substantial role in GM’s 2009 bankruptcy and subsequent resolution of Delphi pensions. This involvement culminated in GM’s decision to fund portions of hourly but not salaried Delphi pensions. Did the Treasury Department receive any communication, direction or other influence from the White House on Delphi pensions?

l Did any official at the Treasury Department communicate with GM in any way to influence the company toward supporting Delphi hourly pensions, or against supporting salaried pensions?

l On Aug. 13, 2012, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp requested that the Treasury Department provide “All records that relate to Delphi, and / or GM’s interest in Delphi.” To date, the Treasury Department has only provided a selection of documents and has refused to certify that it has or will comply completely with the request. Does the Treasury Department plan to comply with the Ways and Means Committee’s request?

Den Black, chairman of the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association, last week said the group and several congressional committees are continuing to demand access to the records held by the U.S. Treasury, hoping they will reveal the decisions that led to the salaried retirees losing up to 70 percent of their pensions while members of the politically supportive major unions saw their pensions topped up with as much as $29 billion taxpayer-provided funds.

”So far the Treasury has refused to provide those records and has moved in court to prevent them from being revealed,” Black said. ”As to a House Ways and Means Committee’s demand to be permitted access to these documents, the (President Barack Obama) administration has threatened to use executive privilege to keep the records secret even though the request concerns a pension issue, not national security.”