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Judge orders release of Delphi documents

A federal magistrate judge has ruled that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. must cooperate with Delphi salaried retirees in their quest for documents relevant to their lawsuit against the PBGC.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mona Majzoub ruled this week, granting the retirees’ second motion to compel discovery from the PBGC, which took over Delphi pensions in 2009. The PBGC takeover cut pension payments by up to 70 percent, but General Motors has compensated retirees represented by the United Auto Workers and other unions to “top up” those pensions.

Delphi, once GM’s parts-making arm, released the pensions to the PBGC while it was in bankruptcy protection. A new publicly traded Delphi with few plants in the U.S. now operates.

On or before Sept. 30, the PBGC is expected to produce census information and other documents the retirees are seeking, Majzoub ruled. The PBGC is also expected to produce documents previously withheld “on the basis of privilege,” the judge wrote from federal court in Detroit.

Retirees — many of whom worked for decades for GM — have sued for nearly four years to restore their full pensions.

In a motion to compel the PBGC to cooperate with the suit’s discovery process, the plaintiffs argued that the PBGC has “withheld almost 30,000 documents on the basis of an unspecified privilege, along with other key data and documents central to the merits of the case,” the judge wrote.

Majzoub also notes “a string of boilerplate objections” from the PBGC that “generally and vaguely assert any privilege available under state or federal law.”

Wrote the judge: “The court has repeatedly found that the filing of boilerplate objections is tantamount to filing no objections at all.”

While the PBGC is expected to produce documents, the retirees’ request for sanctions, costs and attorney fees was denied.

A PBGC spokesman did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Last week, a government investigator released a report concluding that the U.S. Treasury Department opted not to restore the pensions of salaried Delphi retirees during GM’s 2009 bankruptcy because they had “no leverage” while union retirees did.

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