Fri., 9:34am: Obama administration behind ending Delphi retirees’ pensions, report says

CLEVELAND — A government inspector general says President Barack Obama’s administration played a key role in the General Motors bankruptcy in 2009 as pensions were cut for salaried Delphi Corp. retirees but not unionized workers and retirees of the supplier.

The report issued Thursday stopped short of saying the administration’s role was right or wrong. It made no recommendations.

About 20,000 Delphi salaried retirees – nearly half in Ohio – saw their pensions cut by as much as 70 percent during GM’s bankruptcy.

The report says administration officials indicated they acted quickly to avoid GM’s failure.

The Treasury Department, which oversaw the president’s auto task force, took issue with the IG report. Assistant Treasury Secretary Timothy Massad said the pension decision was made by GM and was “driven by sound commercial reasons.”

But auto task force leader Steve Rattner told the Inspector General that GM came to the auto team and said it “wanted to do something for the (Delphi) salaried employees,” according to the IG report. Rattner said that while honoring the request for equal treatment of all pensions might normally be desirable, the “incredible time pressure” made it impossible.

“It’s important that they did say that it was the administration that drove the decisions” on the GM bankruptcy, “including the decisions on the pensions,” said Dennis Black, who chairs a group called the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association, in reports published today.

The Columbus Dispatch today quoted Chuck Cunningham, a Delphi retiree from Warren who serves as the liaison to the law firm handling a retirees’ lawsuit against the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., as saying the report proves that the administration “did wrong.”

“They are not supposed to interfere with the PBGC,” Cunningham said.

Updates will be posted when available. A complete story will be available in Saturday’s Tribune Chronicle print edition.