Court OKs Delphi Retiree Benefits Cutback

February 24, 2009 ( - A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge gave Delphi Corp. permission to cut health care and insurance benefits for about 15,000 white-collar retirees.

According to a Reuters news report, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York cited Delphi’s need to conserve liquidity and said that the company had waited for a sufficient time before seeking to suspend the benefits.

Lawyers for the salaried retirees had argued that parts of the U.S. Bankruptcy code limited the ability of a debtor to modify retiree benefits, but Delphi countered that those benefits are provided “at will.” Drain ruled that the code only applied when retirees could prove they have a guaranteed right to those benefits, Reuters said.

The Buffalo Business Journal reported that the retirees appearance before Drain followed their filing of a formal objection to the benefits cutoff as of April 1.

According to the news report, the United Auto Workers union, which represents salaried workers at two Delphi plants, joined in the retirees’ objection court filing.

By cutting off white-collar retirees’ benefits, the Troy, Michigan-based company said it can save more than $70 million a year and take more than $1.1 billion in liabilities off its balance sheet, according to the news report.

If Delphi discontinues the benefits, retirees say they will have to buy insurance through the company at costs that could reach up to $1,400 per month for a couple.

Delphi Corp. filed for Chapter 11 in October 2005 (See Delphi Closer to Clearing Bankruptcy Emergence Hurdles ).