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Ohio’s AG enters Delphi pension fight

Attorneys general from seven states, including Ohio’s Dave Yost, are on the side of Delphi salaried retirees in their now more than 12-year effort to restore pensions slashed when the auto-parts maker went bankrupt.

Yost signed onto a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel that urges the high court to review the retirees’ case against the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and its 2009 takeover of the retirement plans.

“It’s an upside-down world when criminals get their day in court, but these hard-working, taxpaying citizens are denied that right,” Yost said. “These Delphi retirees are entitled to due process.”

The brief was filed Wednesday — one day after the National Legislative Retiree Network, which represents more than 2 million retirees across the U.S., and six days after a bipartisan, bicameral group of federal lawmakers also filed briefs with the court requesting its review.

The pensions of the thousands of salaried retirees, including about 1,500 local retirees were cut, some by as much as 70 percent, when the PBGC took over responsibility after Delphi, which at one time was part of General Motors’ parts division, emerged from bankruptcy.

GM continued contributing to union-represented retirees, but salaried retirees were left with substantially reduced benefits.

They sued and have been in court since as they argue the plan termination was illegal.

What retirees are asking the Supreme Court to review is a decision in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that sided with a March 2019 Michigan federal court judge’s ruling that dismissed the lawsuit against the PBGC.

The attorneys general argue the retirees had no opportunity to challenge the plan termination before it was terminated. The bankruptcy court refused to hear their challenge and then the PBGC terminated the pensions without a court decision, the brief states.

And when the retirees sought relief, the 6th Circuit “held they had no constitutional right to any process at all,” the brief states. “The decision below should be reversed because it failed to even recognize that the retirees had a cognizable property interest in the payments they had been promised.”

Also, the decision has far wider impacts that just to the Delphi retirees, the attorneys general claim.

The circuit decision sets precedent in the states within the court’s jurisdiction and “if found persuasive and adopted by other courts of appeals, could wreak economic havoc in other states.”

Bruce Gump, chairman of the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association, said, “our efforts have never been just about regaining our pensions.

“Our children and grandchildren, and all those who depend on our federal government to be fair and transparent could also have to deal with their earned benefits being taken away from them without so much as a chance to even object,” he said.

Joining Yost and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel are the attorneys general of Delaware, Florida, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

Some U.S. lawmakers, including Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, are taking a legislative approach to the problem and restore the pensions.

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