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Delphi pension battle has far-reaching effects

DEAR EDITOR:

The Delphi Salaried Retirees situation is far more complex than just “down to their last shot.” After nearly 12 years, I hope people know there’s much more at stake than just the very important legal battle.

The issues stem from a federal agency intentionally interpreting one word in one paragraph in the lengthy Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) they say allows them to take what workers earned in decades of service, without any opportunity to object, to check PBGC calculations, to have any transparency or accountability for that agency. One word.

How PBGC interprets that word creates a tremendous unknown for any worker promised a pension and sacrificed current income to pay for it. Even years after they terminate a pension plan they got the numbers wrong, as they did in our case, there is no turning back. They can do this to even healthy plans like ours was, by making up numbers they think authorizes them to take what we earned. Our plan’s funding was better than average of the top 100 largest plans in America at the time. They requested an outside actuary to review funding our plan after they terminated it but refused to allow anybody to see the analysis for 12 years!

If we don’t succeed in forcing the PBGC to change intentional perversion of the law, everybody who’s worked decades toward retirement is vulnerable. We, Delphi Salaried Retirees, are first to take this through the entire court system. Our members donated more than $9 million. We have persisted and sacrificed time and energy to force them to reveal “dirty laundry.” They fought hard and dirty to keep records hidden. At one point the court took their right to protect documents by claiming legal privilege.

We know the U.S. Treasury, under which the Auto Task Force operated, created a situation where the PBGC felt they were required to terminate our pension plan. Even though the ERISA law states the main purpose of PBGC is to “encourage the continuation of private pension plans,” they admitted they never tried to negotiate with other possible sponsors to take our plan. They testified when decisions were made on which plans to protect with taxpayer money, PBGC representatives “sat in another room and read books all day.”

So, our issue affects millions of others. If we win, others will have the chance to review decisions to terminate their pension plan and potentially object in court, and a judge must rule on need to terminate. As it is, the PBGC can do whatever they please.

So far, the loss to the local economy is on the order of $100 million. It all would come back if we win.

BRUCE GUMP

Howland

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