Former auto czar contradicts docs: Obama admin not behind Delphi pensions scandal

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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On Tuesday, President Barack Obama’s former auto industry bailout czar, Steven Rattner, contradicted evidence obtained by The Daily Caller and several congressional committees by claiming the administration had no hand in the decision to terminate 20,000 nonunion Delphi salaried retirees’ pensions.

TheDC asked Rattner if the Obama administration should restore the Delphi pensions.

“No, I don’t think the administration – the administration was not the decision-maker in what happened in Delphi, so therefore I don’t think it’s for the administration to suddenly go back in and change something,” Rattner told TheDC after an event at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

Rattner’s claim that the Obama administration “was not the decision-maker” in the Delphi salaried retirees’ pension termination scandal directly contradicts recently surfaced documents. (RELATED: Emails: Geithner, Treasury drove cutoff of non-union Delphi workers’ pensions)

Documents obtained by TheDC in early August reveal that the Department of Treasury and the White House drove the cutoff of those pensions, and subsequent congressional investigations have drawn similar conclusions.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp – who launched his own investigation into the scandal after TheDC’s report – concluded that, based on the preliminary documents he has obtained, “Treasury was clearly in the center of the decision to terminate the pensions of Delphi’s salaried workers.”

Camp also noted that the Treasury Department is withholding documents from his committee – as his investigators acquired some relevant documents Secretary Timothy Geithner’s Treasury team should have turned over from other sources, like the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. (RELATED: Issa, Turner threaten Geithner with subpoenas on Delphi documents)

“Instead of withholding important documents, Treasury should release all documents without further delay and give these hardworking Americans answers as to why Treasury believed they were not entitled to their full pensions,” Camp added. “I have serious concerns about this administration picking winners and losers in Delphi’s bankruptcy.”

House oversight committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa – who is also investigating the scandal – has threatened Geithner with subpoenas if he doesn’t turn over all documents related to the scandal by the close of business on Tuesday. At this time, it’s unclear if Treasury has provided documents to Issa’s committee.

The House Education and Workforce Committee is also investigating the scandal, and the subcommittee chairman at its investigative helm – Tennessee Republican Rep. Phil Roe – told TheDC that he and his staff are considering subpoenas to compel document production.

In addition, just this week, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Spencer Bachus threw his weight behind the investigations, offering Camp and his committee any resources necessary to further their effort.

There’s widespread bipartisan support to get to the bottom of this issue, as Democratic Reps. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Kathy Hochul of New York and Marcy Kaptur and Tim Ryan of Ohio, and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, among others in their party, have expressed vocal support for the Delphi salaried retirees’ cause.

During the panel discussion at the Center for American Progress event, Rattner also said that the Delphi salaried retirees’ pension plans were “not well funded” — a charge that runs counter to the evidence.

“We felt that it was important to us that we understood where the money that we were putting in on your behalf into GM was going, how much was going to this issue, to that issue, to the other issue, and so Delphi was a very complicated situation,” Rattner said. “As you know, it’s not part of General Motors — it’s a separate company that was in that time in bankruptcy for two and a half years. And in bankruptcy, those salaried workers were entitled to nothing beyond whatever was in their plan and, unfortunately, their plan was not well funded. The workers had an agreement with General Motors as part of the spinoff that their plan would be protected by General Motors and therefore we felt it was appropriate for General Motors to agree to protect that plan.”

Other documents and congressional and court testimony by figures involved in the matter show that the plan was funded well enough to pay the nonunion retirees just like the administration agreed to pay the union retirees.

During a House oversight committee hearing in Dayton, Ohio, Delphi’s former executive director for employee benefits Steve Gebbia said actuarial firm Towers Watson told him “that while the salaried pension plan was not fully funded at the time of the involuntary termination of the plan, it was, however, funded well above a level that would have required mandatory termination of the plan.”

Jim DeGrandis, an independent consulting actuary with BPS&M, LLC – a Wells Fargo Company – testified in court that Towers Watson’s analysis of the plan showed it was just under 86 percent funded, and that he thinks the Obama administration’s actions were “very unusual” in this case.

Video reporting by Nicholas Ballasy.

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