A House subcommittee tomorrow will ask three former members of President Obama’s Auto Task Force why they refused to cooperate with an official investigation of the government’s role in forcing 20,000 former white-collar Delphi employees to accept huge pension and health benefit cuts.
The hearing will be held by the TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. It was sought by Rep. Michael Turner, R-OH, whose district includes numerous Delphi retirees.
The three former task force members scheduled to testify include Ron Bloom, Matthew Feldman and Harry Wilson. They previously refused to cooperate with an investigation by the Special Inspector General for the TARP (SIGTARP) program about their panel’s role in the Delphi controversy.
A spokesman for Turner said he does not know whether any of the three individuals will respond to questions from the subcommittee about the role, if any, of the Auto Task Force in the Delphi settlement.
Turner sought the hearing after SIGTARP Christy L. Romero said she believes “the Auto Task Force played a role in the pension decision and these individuals’ failure to speak to SIGTARP on this issue poses a significant obstacle to SIGTARP’s ability to complete its audit.”
Unlike other federal IGs, the SIGTARP cannot compel witnesses to testify, but Turner’s subcommittee can issue subpoenas. Bloom was chairman of the Auto Task Force, while Feldman and Wilson were members.
“As former employees of the taxpayers, these individuals have a responsibility to answer as to how these decisions were made. The money they used to pick winners and losers wasn’t Obama Administration funds, or PBGC funds – those are taxpayer dollars. Taxpayers have rightfully been demanding an account for how those dollars were used,” Turner said in a statement about the hearing.
The hearing tomorrow will be the latest episode in a long-running battle between the Obama administration and members of Congress, news media groups, and activist non-profits like Judicial Watch regarding the White House refusal to provide documents from the Treasury Department and other government agencies about the federal bailout of Wall Street banks and investment firms, two of Detroit’s Big Three automakers and other “too big to fail” financial institutions.
A key part of the bailout was the role of the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) in settling pension and health benefit claims from employees and retirees of the former parts supplier to GM.
The Delphi pension fund for more than 70,000 salaried and hourly workers was $7.6 billion short of what was needed to cover promised benefits at the time of the firm’s bankruptcy. The PBGC was required by law to cover $6 billion of the shortfall, but GM only agreed to make up the remainder for hourly employees, not for the salaried workers.
The hourly workers were members of the United Auto Workers Union. Losses among the salaried workers have been estimated to reach as much as 70 percent for many of them.