The emails TheDC has obtained also show the White House was involved in this decision-making process. According to a July 8, 2009, email from House to several PBGC staffers, the Treasury Department’s Feldman was coordinating the process with the White House. That email also went to David Burns, then a principal at the finance restructuring firm Greenhill & Co., and Bradley Robins, Greenhill’s Head of Financing Advisory and Restructuring for North America.
“Just spoke with Matt Feldman,” House wrote. “He apologized for being out of touch most of the day, attributing the radio-silence entirely to GM bankruptcy-case issues.”
“He [Feldman] reported that he has made progress discussing our proposal with a number of key folks in Treasury and at [the] White House, but he has not yet wrapped up his coordination,” House continued. “He indicated that there is an 8 am call tomorrow that he’ll use to close the communication-loop, and he’s confident he’ll have a fully-vetted Treasury view after that call.”
In another series of emails between PBGC’s John Menke and Karen Morris, Feldman — an Obama administration official — emerges as the facilitator of the Delphi pension termination. Menke wrote of the need to obtain a “rubber stamp” from Treasury Department officials before the cutoff was finalized, and from others who were supposed to be excluded from the decision-making process.
Menke emailed Morris on July 14, 2009, laying out details of the final deal that was to deny 20,000 nonunion Delphi workers most of hteir pension benefits.
“Terry [Deneen], Joe [House] and Greenhill seem inclined to tell Feldman that this does it for us,” Menke wrote. “Terry is taking it up to Board reps meeting this afternoon and expecting to get a head nod, which he will then have Greenhill convey to Treasury.”
“Feldman will then take it to GM and get their approval, which will either be a rubber stamp or one last chance to nick us on the deal,” Menke added.
Feldman has not responded to TheDC’s requests for comment about the Obama administration’s direct role in driving the the plan to terminate the Delphi pensions. And despite the emails, Treasury spokesman Matt Anderson maintained that the PBGC made the decision — not the Treasury Department.
“[T]he termination of the Delphi salaried pension plan was made by the PBGC in accordance with its standard procedures and applicable laws — not by Treasury,” Anderson said in an email to TheDC. “Although the Delphi bankruptcy was very difficult for its employees and retirees, the actions Treasury took to support the American auto industry helped save more than a million American jobs during a period of economic crisis.”
Note: This story was updated after publication to reflect that Delphi is an independent company and not controlled by General Motors.