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House oversight committee issues first subpoena in Delphi pension fight



Published: Tue, August 13, 2013 @ 12:07 a.m.

By Jamison Cocklin

jcocklin@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

In a sign of mounting frustration, a congressional committee made a move Friday to uncover what could be tens of thousands of documents withheld from Delphi salaried retirees in their quest to regain full pension benefits.

Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued the first subpoena Friday to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. In a letter signed by two other lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, Issa said the Treasury’s “lack of cooperation” over the last three and a half years left him with no choice but to subpoena Lew for the documents.

Congress has made repeated requests with the Treasury for what lawyers representing the salaried retirees estimate could be as many as 30,000 documents that could help determine why they saw their pensions slashed by more than half in some cases. Until now, though, no request has carried the weight of a congressional subpoena.

The move is yet another volley in a four-year struggle for about 20,000 retirees — including 1,500 in the Mahoning Valley — who saw their pensions cut anywhere from 30 percent to 70 percent after Delphi terminated their plans during bankruptcy in 2009. They also remain without health and life insurance.

Delphi was formed as a spinoff by General Motors Co. in 1999 as a parts supplier. After Delphi terminated the pension plans and left a $7.2 billion shortfall, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. assumed the plans and billions in losses.

Issa is examining whether the Treasury played a larger role than the PBGC in marginalizing the salaried retirees benefits — as hourly workers, mostly represented by the United Auto Workers, saw no such cuts. The Treasury oversaw the president’s auto task force, which played a major part in the government’s $85 billion industry bailout.

“Taxpayers deserve the full truth about how decisions were made to use their money in an administration effort that resulted in protecting generous pensions for unionized Delphi employees, while greatly diminishing benefits for nonunionized employees,” Issa and other lawmakers wrote in the letter to Lew.

Similar attempts to obtain documents that might help determine how the decision was made and whether it was legal were filed in 2010, 2011 and 2012 with Lew’s predecessor, Tim Geithner. Lawmakers noted in their letter, though, that the requests either went unanswered, or “only a fraction” of the requested documents were received.

The oversight chairman is the only committee chairman in the House who can issue a subpoena — a document that compels testimony or physical evidence to come before members — without a full committee vote.

It’s unclear, though, if the Treasury will cooperate with the request. Calls and emails left Monday with the department went unanswered, and a congressional subpoena is not always enforceable.

Bruce Gump, vice chairman of the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association and a former Delphi engineer from Warren, says he was overjoyed with the committee’s move. He said the Treasury’s decision to ignore repeated requests for information related to the ongoing congressional investigation represents a “tacit admission of guilt.”

“Congress has heard enough and seen enough to think that something wasn’t done properly,” Gump said. “Now they want records to show Treasury is telling the truth and everything was done properly and legally.”

A lawsuit by Delphi salaried retirees over the PBGC decision to take on the pension plans continues. At issue is how much liability existed before the plan was terminated.

Based on a 2009 independent actuary, salaried retirees believe the liability was $3.5 billion, while the PBGC has said it was $5.2 billion. Repeated efforts to obtain documents to determine how the PBGC determined the $5.2 billion have been met with resistance from various government agencies, as well as President Barack Obama’s administration.

James Sherk, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said Friday that many believe the pension plans never should have entered bankruptcy in the first place.

“My suspicion is [Treasury] is dragging its feet because those decisions will not make them look good,” he said. “About 20,000 people had their pensions cut at the market’s low point, and if they would have waited for it to recover, those retirees would have likely received everything they were promised.”


Comments

1classics(53 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

The retirees have had what, 6 or more Hearings over 5 years and both they, Congress and the Senate continue to be stonewalled by the most transparent Administration in history. If nothing was handled improperly, why not prove it by showing documents being requested both by Congress and the court and get it over with instead of wasting tax payer money fighting them. This is scandalous. The Obama Administration is proving to be a big disappointment, to say the least, and maybe even criminal. .

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2timOthy(802 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

IF THESE PEOPLE GET THEIR'S OTHER AMERICANS SHOULD TOO ! WHAT KILLS ME . IS THAT THEY COULD HAVE ORGANIZED AT THE TIME DELPHI WAS CREATED . WHY DIDN'T YOU ? CHEAP ! DID NOT WANT TO PAY DUES . BUT YOU WANT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TO PAY SOOO YOU RECEIVE YOURS ! DO WITHOUT SCAB !

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3polhack(129 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

TimOthy what is your problem? The salaried employees were screwed out of benefits they had worked to receive and rightly believed they would. The problem here seems to be the reverse of the government's bogus "too big to fail" reasoning that has nearly bankrupted the country. In this case, the Depphi folks were too small to worry about as a source of campaign funding. If Clinton hadn't repealed Glass-Seagall, and Bush had not winked at the bankers who should have been prosecuted for their derivative scams, this fight would have been laid to rest long ago. Republican, Democrat, union member or not it doesn't matter. What is important to learn here is that government is becoming the enemy of the governed. Heaven help us if members of Congress can't find spine enough to turn away from personal greed and public pandering to actually act in the interests of our country. More likely, they will be too busy directing their staff which stocks to buy, based on abusive use of insider information, than actually reading or writing constructive legislation. Delphi employees I wish you the best of luck. That is the minimum you will need to get anything resembling justice from our sham of a government.

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4walter_sobchak(1979 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

timOthy
So the "equal protection under the law" clause in our Constitution means nothing? It shouldn't matter if you are part of organized labor or not. When the Obama's Treasury Dept. met with the leaders of GM and Delphi, the UAW had a seat at the negotiation table. They received preferential treatment in that their pension were made whole but the salaried workers were not. The question is obvious: was there a quid quo pro for support in the 2012 election? I believe that Obama used taxpayer's funds to but votes from the UAW. Richard Nixon famously asked "people want to know if their president is a crook". Someone should ask Obama the same question because they robbed these people!

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5classics(53 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

gdog, the salaried tried to form a union more than once. Having a union provides leverage with the company you work for. It doesn't allow for special political favors at the tax payers expense. That is the argument here. The salaried pensions were well funded enough to pay out for many years. What happened to that money and why won't the people who made those decisions, the Treasury/Obama Admin, allow the retirees access to the documents that show the decision making process and how much money was in the pot. Instead, their acting like dictators. The vast majority the working people do not or can not belong to a union. That should not prevent them from being treated like any other citizen by their government. Union or non. Your logic is lacking. Learn the facts.

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6southsidedave(4840 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

pensions are a figment of your imagination...they are a relic of the American past and companies will do ANYTHING to not pay them

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7300(562 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

Delphi pensioners= welfare recipients.

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8papa1(696 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

the salaried retirees got the right man to fight for them when issa entered the fray. he's the right wing attack dog and will do anything to make Obama look bad. he didn't get any mileage out of his bs scandals so I wouldn't hold my breath if I was a salaried retiree.

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9JoeFromHubbard(1115 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

It has been shown that Obama played favorites with automobile dealership owners. Republican owners lost more dealerships than Democratic owners when Obama "realigned" the auto industry.

Fair and transparent ?

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