WARREN - A federal magistrate judge ruled Thursday that the entity that took over pensions of Delphi salaried retirees must turn over documents the retirees have been seeking for two years in a federal lawsuit.
The ruling represents a small victory for thousands of retirees, including some 1,500 from the Warren area, fighting to have their full pensions restored.
A large percentage of the pensions were lost during Delphi's 2009 bankruptcy despite the fact that hourly retirees at that time saw their pensions topped up and kept whole during the subsequent bankruptcy and government bailout of General Motors.
Delphi supplies electrical wiring parts for the Detroit automaker.
Thursday's ruling in the 2009 case against the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. pending in federal court in Michigan ordered the records be turned over by Sept. 30. The retirees have been seeking all documents "related to the potential PBGC recoveries in connection with the Delphi pension plans."
U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub ordered the records to be released.
The documents were first sought by the salaried retirees group in 2011 during routine court proceedings known as discovery, in which evidence is exchanged.
The PBGC had argued that the documents should be protected by executive privilege. In her ruling Thursday, however, the judge ordered that no strong argument of privilege had ever been made.
U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Niles, on Friday expressed satisfaction with the ruling.
"I am pleased that a federal judge has stepped in and directed that PBGC must produce the documents necessary to move to the next stage of this lawsuit," Ryan said in a prepared statement.
"Many of the Delphi salaried retirees are experiencing continued economic hardship following the collapse of their former employer. It has been a long process to obtain these documents and retirees have been waiting on the sidelines for far too long."
In her ruling, the judge also ordered the sides to meet to develop terms of an order that will protect the disclosure of sensitive or confidential information about individual pensions. The agreed-upon terms should be filed in court by Sept. 9.
The judge denied, at least for now, a plaintiff's motion to impose sanctions against the PBGC for failure to provide the documents in a timely manner. She gave the sides 14 days to file any appeals.
The ruling comes just one week after a government investigator released a report concluding that President Barack Obama's administration played a key role in the GM 2009 bankruptcy decision to cut pensions for salaried Delphi retirees but not for unionized workers and retirees of the supplier. The report stopped short of alleging wrongdoing.