House Ways and Means chairman demands Delphi pension termination documents from Obama administration

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Republican House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp demanded Wednesday that the U.S. Treasury Department and the Obama administration release records connected to an emerging scandal surrounding autoworker pensions terminated during the auto bailout. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and the Treasury Department axed pensions in 2009 for 20,000 non-union salaried retirees who worked for Delphi.

Those workers’ pension plans lost between 30 and 70 percent of their value, while similar plans covering members of the United Auto Workers and other labor unions were preserved and made whole.

Camp fired off letters to PBGC director Josh Gotbaum, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, asking for documents by September 7. His committee seeks internal documents and communications relating to the decision-making process that resulted in those pension losses for non-union Delphi retirees.

From the PBGC, Camp demanded Gotbaum provide “all records, including but not limited to electronic mail to or from PBGC, the Departments of Treasury, Labor and Commerce and the Executive Office of the President of the United States” that relate to Delphi and General Motors’ interest in Delphi “for the period of January 1 through December 31, 2009.”

He demanded similar documents from Geithner and Ruemmler.

“Treasury has claimed in testimony and court filings that it had no substantial role in the decision to deny 20,000 salaried retirees of Delphi the full pension they were promised and worked hard to earn,” Camp wrote in his letters to the high-ranking officials. “However, documents obtained from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and recently published raise questions about the full extent of Treasury’s involvement in the decisions that ultimately picked winners and losers among Delphi’s retirees.”

A House Ways and Means committee press release cited an Aug. 7 story in The Daily Caller that included internal PBGC emails showing senior White House and Treasury officials were behind the pension terminations.

Those emails demonstrate that Geithner and his Treasury Department were the driving force, and contradict sworn testimony in which several Obama administration figures have said that the decision to terminate the pensions came from the PBGC.

The PBGC is a federal government agency that handles private-sector pension benefits issues. Its charter calls for independent representation of pension beneficiaries’ interests.

Federal law requires that PBGC is the only government entity that may initiate termination of a pension or move toward doing so.

Camp, whose district is home to a number of Delphi salaried retirees who lost their pensions, added that “Delphi employees deserve answers as to why their pension benefits were terminated, while some of their coworkers were not.”

“These men and women worked hard to earn their full pensions, and it looks like they may have been cut out by the Obama Administration,” Camp said. “The arbitrary nature of these decisions has raised serious concerns about the government picking winners and losers in Delphi’s bankruptcy. We need answers.”

There is bipartisan support for such document requests. Last week, 12 lawmakers wrote to House oversight committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman asking them to dig deeper into the issue.

Those members — GOP Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, and GOP Reps. Pat Tiberi of Ohio, Steve Stivers of Ohio, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, Dan Burton of Indiana, Bill Johnson of Ohio, Paul Gosar of Arizona and Gregg Harper of Mississippi and Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio — are led by Ohio Republican Rep. Mike Turner.

Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown has since indicated his support for such an investigation, and Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan recently wrote his own letters asking Gotbaum and Geithner to release the Delphi documents.

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