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Senators seek update on Delphi pension review

Brown, Portman, others write letter following missed Jan. 20 deadline

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators want answers from the Biden administration concerning the review of the terminated Delphi salaried retiree pensions directed by former President Donald Trump in October.

The eight lawmakers that include Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown from Ohio have requested a status update on Trump’s presidential memo from the secretaries of the Treasury, Commerce and Labor.

Trump’s memo directed those same members of his Cabinet to report within 90 days recommendations to remedy the reduced retirement benefits that happened when the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation took responsibility for the pensions in 2009.

It was to include whether the pension plan can be restored to pretermination status and bring additional transparency to the decision to terminate the plan. The directive also contained a 180-day implementation period.

The reporting deadline long has passed.

“As of June 10, 2020, we have not seen this report or have been made aware of its completion. We understand this review was due on Jan. 20, 2021 — before you assumed your current roles. We believe it is important that Congress still have the opportunity to review the recommendations provided by your agencies,” the lawmakers wrote to Biden’s Cabinet members Thursday.

The group, which also includes Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, wants to know when work on the report began, when it’s expected to be completed and when Congress can expect to receive a copy for review.

“Please know that we stand ready to work with you to ensure the Delphi retirees, and all American workers can be secure in the benefits they have earned,” the letter states.

It’s unclear to members of the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association whether the review kept going when Trump lost re-election to President Joe Biden. Chuck Cunningham, legal liaison for the association, said the group had been working with Trump’s assistant for trade and manufacturing policy, Peter Navarro, and his staff, but those people left when power changed hands.

“Certainly, it’s great to get a bipartisan effort like this,” Cunningham said. “I think that is tremendous and we so appreciate it, and I just hope the Cabinet members come back and do something about it and the PBGC cooperates.”

The association has been fighting for more than 11 years to have their lost pensions restored.

It sued the PBGC in 2009 after the agency took over the employee pensions when Delphi declared bankruptcy. The move resulted in lower pension payments to retirees, some by as much as 70 percent. About 1,500 local salaried retirees were affected of the approximately 20,000 participants.

Delphi, formerly Packard Electric that at one time was part of General Motors’ parts division, filed for bankruptcy in October 2005 and emerged four years later. While Delphi was in bankruptcy protection, it relinquished responsibility for all its employee pensions to the PBGC.

General Motors continued contributing to union-represented retirees, but salaried retirees were left with substantially reduced pensions.

The group hasn’t abandoned its legal fight, Cunningham said.

In February, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request by the association to review a decision the court made in September that sided with a March 2019 decision by a Michigan federal court judge. That judge dismissed the group’s lawsuit over lost retirement funding against the PBGC.

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