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Detroit files for Chapter 9 bankruptcy [UPDATED: Detroit is Eligible]

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posted on Jul, 24 2013 @ 12:45 PM
The bankruptcy judge will issue a ruling at 2PM EDT regarding issues before him:

A bankruptcy judge is expected to rule Wednesday afternoon whether to freeze several lawsuits filed against the city and let its bankruptcy case proceed.

U.S. District Judge Steven Rhodes will also decide whether an automatic stay triggered by Detroit’s Chapter 9 filing extends to Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, Gov. Rick Snyder and members of the restructuring team.

The decision would come after city lawyers — during a hearing that lasted almost two hours over the biggest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history — argued Wednesday morning that Detroit would be “irreparably harmed” if retirees are able to block its Chapter 9 filing.

Retirees and city pension fund lawyers have been trying to fight the bankruptcy case because, they say, the filing is trying to violate constitutional protections of vested pension benefits.

From The Detroit News:

Should be interesting...not only for this case...but for cases in the future....Is the Michigan State Consitution beholden to federal law?

And another interesting part of this proceeding:
Will the Michigan Attorney General back the state he is sworn to do....or back the bankruptcy proceedings....or both?

“This could be a bellwether or litmus test for the true meaning of an attorney general for the people of the state of Michigan,” said Larry Roehrig, secretary-treasurer of AFSCME Council 25, one of the city’s largest labor unions.

“If this person decides not to defend it, then we have a serious rip in the moral fabric of the government of this state.”

Gov. Rick Snyder says the issue is a “fair question” and could force the state’s attorney general to ultimately be on both sides of Detroit’s bankruptcy filing.

From The Detroit News:

posted on Jul, 24 2013 @ 01:01 PM
Could we it be we are being lied to about the horrors of the pension system?
wouldn't be the first time we weren't given the straight story.
So, while Detroit residents and employees/retirees have had to deal with public corruption for decades, now we are being used as guinea pigs

This interesting take of what may be behind "blaming the retiree" is certainly food for thought.

Orr claims that Detroit's ultimate debt obligations will amount to between $18 and $22 billion. But his own fiscal report says right up front on page 3 that the total unfunded portion of Detroit's pension obligation comes to only $600 million. That's less than 3 percent of Orr's higher figure. Even the most aggressive recalculation can't turn it into a significant portion of Detroit's obligations.

Behind all the talk about unfunded obligations lies the real goal: They want to cut the funded obligations. But even that figure only comes to about one-sixth of Detroit's total obligations. So why all the focus on pensions?

They want to set a precedent.
Because Detroit's being used by the austerity economics crowd. We've already seen the needless public spectacle being enacted by Orr and his team as they publicly contemplate selling off the city's property, large and small. (See "The Looting of Detroit.")

Gutting the city's employee pension plan would be a similar kind of ritual sacrifice, designed to break the public's belief in the social contract -- and to set a national precedent. Detroit's unusually severe financial circumstances make that seem more necessary than it is.

posted on Jul, 24 2013 @ 02:11 PM
reply to post by DontTreadOnMe

You know, I've got to say that something really strange has gone on with pensions, particularly for federal and, seemingly, municipal. Pensions weren't really a problem up until a few years ago. Bush signed in the Pension Protection Act of 2006 during his presidency:

This act made a lot of very sweeping and broad changes to the way that pensions were both cared for and the levels of contributions to them. These changes were for every agency within the federal government though the most notable effect was on the USPS. Basically, the rules were changed so that federal agencies were having to contribute greater amounts of money than any other pension provider had in history. Pension contributions typically work in such a way as to cover current and some level of future employees--typically around 30 or so years in the future. The money goes into a pension fund which is then invested somewhere so that it can accrue and have enough money to pay the pensions of all applicable employees when they retire. The change that Bush signed in made it so that federal agencies would have to make pension contributions for employees up to 75 years in advance. Essentially, agencies had to make pension contributions for employees that weren't even born yet. That's what tanked our USPS budget.

But something else occurred, I think in 2009 or 2010 (definitely post 2006). I was looking at the DoD annual reports a year ago and noted that the pension contributions for the DoD actually doubled. The note in the financial report actually reported that these adjustments were due to changes in actuary calculations. These adjustments were after the 2006 act so what caused the doubling?

How this relates is that state and municipal pension plans tend to reflect what is being done at the federal level as the federal government would basically be their biggest employment competitor. Even more interesting is that this curious situation isn't just occurring on our side of the pond but is also occurring in the UK.

Pension funds are essentially huge nest eggs with tons of money in them, the large part of which will just sit for decades. Something has been nudging me terribly about pensions in a major way for the last several years. Unfortunately, actuarial tables and the like tend to be almost mysteriously obtained as they are calculations on the future. However, when you start considering and adding things up like the huge sums that the USPS has to contribute to their pensions and the fact that the DoD's pension contributions doubled, the amount of money that would be contributed would be an incredible amount and just sits for decades. It's really quite suspicious.

My gut says that something occurred with the actuaries and it's truly jaw dropping to see how far and wide it is.

posted on Jul, 24 2013 @ 03:35 PM
Judge halts lawsuits seeking to block Detroit bankruptcy

now the fun starts.

we shall see how they 'handle' the underfunded pensions.

Important Topic Updates

A federal bankruptcy judge on Wednesday suspended pending lawsuits in state courts that are challenging Detroit's bankruptcy filing.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes said there is nothing in the 10th Amendment, which guides state vs. federal jurisdiction, that bars federal jurisdiction in this case. He said his court will be the exclusive venue for any legal action regarding the bankruptcy.

posted on Jul, 24 2013 @ 04:15 PM
reply to post by xuenchen

The Detroit City Council is the modern day equivalent of Nero Fiddling while the City burns down around them. I;m sure most of them, even now, still thing that Detroit isn't "really" in such bad financial shape. Most of them are clueless and the ones who tried to do something ran into the solid concrete wall that is Detroit Politics.

posted on Jul, 26 2013 @ 12:57 PM
What next?
While I can see why retirees would want to protest, it seems a little to early as the Judge hasn't even decided whether the bankruptcy will happen.
We're also seeing the tired refrain that Detroit can fix its own problems....obviously they cannot.'

The protest, organized by the newly formed “Stop the Theft of Our Pensions Committee,” gained a steady group of 50 to 70 supporters within the first 30 minutes.

The group is arguing that Gov. Rick Snyder and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s bankruptcy filing is a “declaration of war” on city workers and retirees. Labor unions have sued the city on claims the petition filed last week violates the state constitution because it could impair constitutionally protected public pensions for 10,000 city works and 20,000 retirees.

Participants in Friday’s demonstration marched in front of the Spirit of Detroit statute outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, chanting “banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” and “hands off Detroit,”

From The Detroit News:

posted on Jul, 27 2013 @ 11:32 AM
The State Attorney General was sworn to uphold the Michigan Constitution...he finally has come out to say he will doing just that in the bankruptcy proceedings:

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced this morning that he will defend the state’s constitutional protections of public pensions in Detroit’s historic bankruptcy filing.

"The City of Detroit’s bankruptcy will cause even greater hardship for many people in southeast Michigan who are already struggling," Schuette said in a news release today.

Schuette noted that Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has not detailed the type of cuts he intends to seek from Detroit’s two pension plans, but Orr has said the city doesn’t have money to pay what he says is $3.5 billion in underfunding in the two plans that provide pensions to about 20,000 retirees.
Also here:

And, in other weekend [when courts and city offices are closed
] news:
Somewhat of a threat to police and fire to get with Orr's program...or else:

“Be very careful. You might have to live with that number,” Orr said Thursday on the “Craig Fahle Show” on WDET-FM (101.9). “And that means that’s less of an obligation that we have to meet in this process.”

Orr spokesman Bill Nowling said the city could at some point in the bankruptcy proceedings accept the police and fire unions’ figure and diminish their voting power on the city’s restructuring plan for unsecured creditors.

“We might take them up on their offer … and then they won’t get anything,” Nowling told The Detroit News.

From The Detroit News:

From The Detroit News:

posted on Jul, 27 2013 @ 02:21 PM
reply to post by DontTreadOnMe

That's pretty disheartening and makes me worry about those individuals whose retirements actually depended on those pensions. That is really the thing that frustrates me the most in regards to what is happening to pensions. There has been a huge change in terms of retirement and it will create pretty significant crisis in the future.

A little history about pensions is that public pensions actually got their start with the veterans of the Revolutionary War. By the time the 19th century rolled around, pensions were one of the benefits that employers offered as an assurance that the time spent working for an employer would be rewarded in old age. During the Great Depression, though, many individuals lost their pensions in the stock market crash and the government responded with the Social Security Act, which was never intended to be the sole post-retirement support for an individual but an additional component to one's existing pension. Pensions continued to be used but with less frequency when an employer could avoid it.

Then in 1978 during yet another economic recession, the 401(k) was born which promised control over the funds by the individual with some tax benefits. The other aspect of 401(K) was that it was optional in how it was funded based on the employer. There are employer contribution 401(K)s where, similar to a pension, the employer makes payments into the 401(K) and there are employee contribution 401(k) where the employee elects to remove a portion of their income for investment into their 401(k). Most employers opted to have employee contribution 401(K)s. The biggest problem for the 401(k) is that its original estimates were based off the idea that the employee could invest it into stocks and have a nice nest egg to live off of at retirement along with social security. It was originally legislated with the idea of giving the markets a boost. However, it didn't work out that way for a variety of reasons including inflation, wage stagnation and poor market performance. Most households approaching retirement age and depending on 401(K) and social security do not have enough to retire on in the bank.

Retirees still within companies and governmental agencies that retained the practice of pensions, on the other hand, fare much better than the bulk of Americans will when they retire. The biggest reason for that is that, because it is guaranteed by the employer, it tends to be well managed and the contributions are not coming out of the employee's current income. There has been a few instances where pensions have taken a severe hit but that would be related to colossal scandals such as Worldcom and Enron. Those with pensions were probably the only people that were going to be okay in retirement until a few years ago when companies began declaring bankruptcy in an attempt to shed their pension obligations (ie. American Airlines, Kodak, and later, Hostess).

Activities like what the city of Detroit are participating in is truly a bad harbinger for pensions for city/state workers. A practice that used to be doable since the 18th century is now suddenly "financially unviable"? I call b.s. on that one. We've developed into a society that is largely more concerned about the things that we perceive as affecting us directly (omg, not twinkies!!) than one that actually cares about how society will fare in the future. Better yet, pension holders are viewed as the ones that are being greedy and demanding. I just find it so very interesting that if the city of Detroit owes $22 billion and the underfunding of their pensions is a couple billion that the city would chose to pursue that which affects quite possibly tens of thousands of retirees and employees over those creditors that are comprised of just a handful of individuals. So much for the "common good".

posted on Jul, 27 2013 @ 02:37 PM
reply to post by WhiteAlice

Great pension background.

Just to clarify...while what the pensions funds add to the debt of the city isn't all that great...there is about $7 billion in unfunded health-care debt, too.
Guess Detroit figured it could skate with that and not get caught

Many who are watching this event think the pensioners may lose their healthcare....which is a double whammy to their income.....

posted on Jul, 27 2013 @ 03:35 PM
reply to post by WhiteAlice

White Alice,

Pensions, just like Long Term Care Insurance were based on false premises.

Back in the day, way back people retired at 65 and then died pretty much. In fact a lot of people who put into pensions died before ever reaching retirement.

Nowadays, you have people retiring at sometimes their early 50's and all retiring employees living to ages of 75+. Relatively speaking, hardly any people nowadays die before even receiving some pension.

The Pensions just were not originally setup to handle these kind of numbers. LTC insurance policies ran into this problem too. They assumed that more people would drop out of the insurance program and that people wouldn't be in nursing homes for the periods they now are. They also guessed very wrong on the yearly increase in LTC costs while in nursing home. As a result, the whole set of actuarial numbers get thrown out the window.

In Summary, the reasons why pensions worked early on in the 1800's and even up to the 1940's-50's was that, to put it bluntly, you could count on people dying shortly after retiring, if not before. Thanks to modern medicine, that doesn't happen. Even the remaining spouses are living longer, which further strains the pension system. It's the same over all problem that is dooming Social Security and Medicare, the amount we have people put into the system, isn't enough to cover the eventual out-pays we do with the much increased lifespans of retiree's.

Add on top of that, that a lot of pension programs are badly managed and invested and it's no wonder why hardly any pension is fully funded.

edit on 27-7-2013 by pavil because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 27 2013 @ 03:49 PM
reply to post by pavil

You would be absolutely correct, Pavil. Part of the issue with pensions is greater longevity in life and mismanagement (most likely related to the usage of derivatives). How longevity equates to all retirement income sources from social security to pensions to 401(k) is that we now are confronted with the reality of living much longer. Read the article on 401(k) plans. Even though it's all at risk, pensioners still, on average, have it better. The subject matter of what was going to happen with retirees actually came up in my tax accounting class. My prof was a long time tax accountant who was actually called to speak before Congress several years ago. He was ringing horrific alarm bells and telling us to be careful because he didn't want us to be affected. I remember reading a few years back that the expected lifespan for Millenials is projected as being 120 years due to medical advances. The good news is that those who turn 65 have tended to be in good enough health as to work past the age of 65 so that's a bonus. However, there are a few downsides to that including job availability and well, 65+ are prime targets for being laid off (just happened to a couple of my neighbors actually). It's going to get ugly.

posted on Jul, 30 2013 @ 05:51 PM

Judge seeks deadlines in Detroit bankruptcy case

Now that things are settling down....the Judge is starting to set up the procedural dates, as listed in the article.
Also, in addition to the Attorney General being an advocate for the pensioners, the Detroit Retired City Employees Association is likely to defend their members.

The city would need to file its plan for how it will restructure as much as $18 billion in debt by March 1, according to proposed dates listed in an order filed Tuesday by a federal bankruptcy judge.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes proposed a slew of key dates that help establish short-term deadlines in the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history and establish dates for creditors to object to the city’s eligibility for Chapter 9 relief.

From The Detroit News:

posted on Aug, 3 2013 @ 08:43 PM

Detroit proposes moving up bankruptcy fix-it plan

During the city’s second day in bankruptcy court, Rhodes on Friday implored the city and its numerous creditors to use mediation to resolve major disputes as he authorized a committee to represent retirees in the bankruptcy proceedings.

“A consensual resolution is better than a cram-down,” said Rhodes, using the bankruptcy term for a debtor using deals with some creditors to force cuts onto others.

The judge has proposed appointing Chief U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Rosen as mediator, but he did not make a final decision Friday during a hearing to set court dates and deadlines for legal challenges to the city’s eligibility for bankruptcy.

The central issue in the city’s second day in bankruptcy court involved the formation of a committee to represent more than 23,500 retirees with vested pension benefits.

From The Detroit News:

The local news outlets are now using blogs while court is in session, which helps to find out what is happening before the start to play with the facts.
So, the retirees will get a committee to protect their interests, ...and hopefully the unions will not be part of that process as they and their members have different interests than the retirees. The unions uphold what is best for their members...and do not protect a members once they have left employment.

I question the wisdom of upping the date to leave bankruptcy from March 2014 to Jan 1, 2014...there just seems to be so much that still needs to be ironed out.
I also question how the city thinks it can pare 80% out of the $11.5 billion it owes.

posted on Aug, 4 2013 @ 05:33 PM
reply to post by DontTreadOnMe

Sounds like they need 'advice' from some experienced sources.

Perhaps our old friends the Rothschilds can help.

They had a big involvement in the GM and auto companies restructuring.

Not many people know that.

Advising the government on the restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler has paid off in spades. Rothschild leaped to the No. 9 spot this year from No. 24 last year in the rankings of mergers and acquisitions advisers in the United States, according to preliminary Thomson Reuters data.

The venerable investment bank, which traces its roots to 18th-century German founder Mayer Amschel Rothschild and is still owned by the family, also came in No. 9 in the league tables for Europe, up from No. 12 last year.

Rothschild restructures its way up U.S. league tables

posted on Aug, 5 2013 @ 08:26 AM
Health Care for City Workers and Retirees on the Chopping block?

Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s proposal to leverage Obamacare to shed some of Detroit’s $5.7 billion debt for retiree health care has angered unions and struck a sour chord with Democrats and Republicans alike.

But it might benefit the city and become a model for other financially struggling American cities, some experts say.

Orr has suggested routing most city retirees who are under 65 — and therefore too young to qualify for the federally funded Medicare system — into Michigan’s health insurance exchange, set to open Oct. 1.
“(The proposal) ends up shifting the risk from the city to the federal government,” said John Thomas, director of the Center for Health Law and Policy at Connecticut’s Quinnipiac College Law School. “This looks to be, if the bankruptcy judge approves it, very beneficial to Detroit, and a lot of other cities are watching it.”

From The Detroit News:

I've checked into "cheap" individual health coverage in Michigan, in lieu of checking with the exchanges which may or may not be up Oct 1. And, there is some debate that the exchange will have more than one plan

Right now, about $250 a month will get you health care and prescription coverage....
The health care comes with a $10,000 annual deductible [yes, ten thousand!!!!]
With the small incomes most retirees get, that monthly cost and out-of-pocket are hugely prohibitive.

posted on Aug, 9 2013 @ 12:03 PM
When I do my banking...I do it online.
I know when the money will be there...I don't have to rely of clerks or the post office.
But, not the City of Detroit

In late February, cash-strapped Detroit received a $1 million check from the local school system that wasn’t deposited. The routine payment wound up in a city hall desk drawer, where it was found a month later.

This is the way Detroit did business as it slid toward its bankruptcy filing, which it entered July 18. The move exposed $18 billion of long-term obligations in a city plagued by unreliable buses, broken street lights and long waits for police and ambulances. Underlying poor service is a government that lacks modern technology and can’t perform such basic functions as bill collecting, according to Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s emergency manager.

“Nobody sends million-dollar checks anymore — they wire the money,” said Orr spokesman Bill Nowling. Except in Detroit.

“We have financial systems that are three, four, five decades in the past,” Nowling said. “If we can fix those issues, then we’ll be able to provide services better, faster, more efficiently and cheaper.”

From The Detroit News:

posted on Aug, 9 2013 @ 12:14 PM
reply to post by DontTreadOnMe

Yeah, I saw that today too. Sadly, it didn't even move me. It's just how Detroit Operates. Wasn't even surprised. Similar to this little gem I saw yesterday as well. Business as usual in the fair City of Detroit. Ms. Johnshon is a City appointed person to the board while the other two board members were ELECTED by their fellow Police and Firefighters.

Trustee Cheryl Johnson, who is black, questioned whether the police and fire pension board fairly represents all workers. The verbal altercation started after she welcomed a group of about five black firefighters to the meeting. “I would like to encourage all of you and — I’m trying to choose my words carefully — other members who look like you to come to these meetings because I think it is imperative that you are aware of what this board does to represent you, and for you to get involved, and to run for seats on this board so that we can, as a group, make sure that your interests are represented,” she said.

Two fellow trustees challenged Johnson’s comment. “Why does the race of somebody have to have anything to do with the running of this board?” trustee Matt Gnatek, who is white, said. “I’m just curious. I’m sitting here in awe that someone would say that.”

“I take offense to assuming that I — as a white firefighter — don’t have black firefighters’ interests at heart,” trustee Jeffrey Pegg said.

Tensions flare over racial remark at pension board hearing

Sadly, I doubt the mentality that permeates the Government of Detroit will never change. It's never their (Government officials) fault, it's ALWAYS someone else.

edit on 9-8-2013 by pavil because: (no reason given)

edit on 9-8-2013 by pavil because: (no reason given)

posted on Aug, 10 2013 @ 07:49 AM
reply to post by pavil

Sounds like a familiar tune.

The Governor, however, isn't planning on letting Detroit slip eaily back into bad fiscal behaviors:

Gov. Rick Snyder is making plans for an oversight board to keep tabs on Detroit’s finances for years to come after the city exits bankruptcy.
Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said the governor’s office is mostly focused on getting Detroit through bankruptcy, restructuring its finances and improving city services. Detroit’s bankruptcy petition has not yet been approved; an eligibility trial is scheduled for late October.
The board is meant “to ensure that things stay on the right path” after the state-appointed manager leaves town, said Terry Stanton, spokesman for the state Department of Treasury.

From The Detroit News:

And, in a news report from the other side of the Pond:
there is much debate over just which pension fund numbers most accurately show the financial health of the funds.
Orr's numbers---which are shrouded in secrecy---and the fund's own number are far apart.
It's had to dispute an actuary that has been used for decades....but I have read that as of January 1, 2014, accounting standards are changing on at least one element.

Before Detroit filed for bankruptcy in July, a team of analysts working with emergency manager Kevyn Orr met three times with labor unions but couldn’t agree on a critical number: whether Detroit’s unfunded pension liability was five times larger than previously believed.

Weeks later, the bitter divide persists. Orr, appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to fix Detroit’s finances, insists that his estimate of a $3.5-billion future shortfall for the city’s two retirement systems is correct. The pension funds themselves have only reported a $644-million gap based on 2011 actuarial valuations.
edit on Sat Aug 10 2013 by DontTreadOnMe because: fix link

posted on Aug, 11 2013 @ 08:57 PM
reply to post by DontTreadOnMe

I'm sure the actual number is somewhere between both sides there, looks like still over 1 Billion, which is still insane.

Detroit’s retirement systems calculate future assets based on the notion that their investments will return 8 per cent annually over several decades. Many U.S. public employee pension funds use that projected rate of return. Orr has declined to release details about his calculations. But his actuaries use a 7 per cent rate of return on investments, calling it “more realistic” in part because the financial crisis and recession caused years of poor investment returns.

Both of them are using pretty rosy overall numbers in my opinion. Warren Buffet says to expect 6-7% over the long term and somehow I seriously doubt pension boards are better than Warren Buffet in picking stocks.

posted on Aug, 11 2013 @ 09:06 PM
reply to post by pavil

I'm sure the number is somewhere in between.
But it makes me wonder why Orr's number is so high.
And why.
Here's an interesting opinion on the whole bankruptcy thing....with some insight into Detroit pensions...and that Morningside feels Orr's numbers are wrong.

The truth about Detroit: Did Detroit really need to file for bankruptcy?

Orr’s claim helps him justify reducing pension benefits. The health of the funds therefore becomes a battleground in what looks like a long legal fight.

In a broader sense, Orr must still persuade U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes that the city is eligible to file for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy. To do that, Orr must demonstrate that the city is insolvent. Larkin’s column and his financial assumptions shows that a claim of insolvency is by no means a slam dunk.

And here is Larkin's article.
I'm only providing this man's conclusions.....feel free to read the rest:

The most crucial element missing from all of these plans is the future political leadership of this distressed city. In every city fiscal crisis since 1975, fiscal recovery was spearheaded by extraordinarily strong political leadership by a newly elected mayor. In the New York City fiscal crises in 1975 and 1991, the leaders were the late Ed Koch and former mayor Rudy Giuliani. In Philadelphia’s crisis in 1991, it was Ed Rendell, who went on to become governor of Pennsylvania. In Washington, D.C.’s 1995 financial crisis, it was Anthony Williams, first as the city’s Chief Financial Officer, and immediately after as the city’s fifth mayor since the position was created under federal law in 1975.

Detroit will be electing a new mayor this year. Never has strong political leadership in Detroit been more important. Right now, the city’s future is in the hands of a bankruptcy lawyer from Washington, D.C. The long-term future, success or failure will now be in the hands of Detroit’s voters. It is in everyone’s best interest that the final choice can lead the city out of the wilderness of municipal bankruptcy and into a new era of renaissance for this once-great city.

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