By Thomas Gnau
Members of both houses of Congress and both parties want a more thorough investigation of how government officials decided to dispose of Delphi retiree pensions, according to a letter released Thursday.
A bipartisan letter from members of the Senate and the House of Representatives asks the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, and the chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, to request more documents from the U.S. Treasury and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. on how the pensions were released to the PBGC in 2009.
Delphi salaried retirees experienced pension cuts of 30 to 70 percent when the PBGC took over the pensions as Delphi made its way through Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Members of the United Auto Workers, however, saw their pensions restored or made whole as General Motors paid the difference between lower PBGC payments and long-expected contractual amounts UAW retirees expected.
“These retirees, regardless of labor affiliation or not, spent their careers working alongside one another and should not be treated differently in their retirement,” said the letter, dated Thursday. “This decision of the Auto Task Force, Treasury, and the PBGC continues to affect roughly 20,000 current and future retirees across the nation.”
About 700 Dayton-area Delphi salaried retirees saw their pensions reduced. Delphi also ended health and life insurance coverage for retirees.
General Motors once owned Delphi as its parts-producing division before GM spun the company off in 1999. Afterwards, though, GM remained Delphi’s largest customer.
GM received billions in federal government support to help it emerge from bankruptcy in 2009, shortly before Delphi itself left bankruptcy.
Twelve members signed the letter, three senators and nine representatives. Among them are Reps. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, and Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, as well as Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. Reps. Pat Tiberi, R-Galena; Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington; and Mike Kelly, R-Pa., also signed the letter.
Sen. Sherrod Brown’s signature was not on the letter.
“He (Brown) thinks this needs to be a transparent process, definitely,” said Lauren Kulik, a spokeswoman for Brown. She declined to say why he didn’t sign the letter, but she said Brown believes pensions for all Delphi retirees should be restored and protected.
In recent days, the treatment of Delphi pensions has received new attention, thanks to emails between Treasury and PBGC staffers that have come to light in House hearings and on a news website, The Daily Caller.
A spokeswoman for President Barack Obama’s campaign referred questions about the letter to the White House.
“The decisions surrounding the Delphi salaried pension plan were made by the PBGC in accordance with its standard procedures and applicable laws, not by the White House or the Treasury Department. Although the Delphi bankruptcy was very difficult for its employees and retirees, the actions the administration took to support the American auto industry helped save more than a million American jobs during a period of economic crisis and saved an entire American industry,” said White House spokesperson Amy Brundage
Chris Maloney, spokesman for the Mitt Romney campaign in Ohio, said: “The latest reports of the Obama Administration picking winners and losers during its extraordinary intervention in the auto industry is another troubling reminder of the arbitrary power of the federal government when it intervenes in the marketplace. The Obama administration chose to protect the pensions of its political allies.”