Former Governor Reaches Accord with Pension Funds

September 17, 2001 ( - Six pension funds will receive at least $2 million from former Arizona Governor Fife Symington to settle a bankruptcy case stemming from a failed real estate deal negotiated before he was elected governor.

On September 6, Symington and representatives of the union pension funds presented US Bankruptcy Judge George B. Nielsen Jr. with the proposed settlement, according to the Associated Press. A scheduled hearing to approve the agreement was postponed until September 25, however, because a pension-funds representative could not travel to Phoenix due to last week’s terrorist attacks.

Documents obtained by the AP indicate that Symington agreed to pay the pension funds the greater of $2 million or 40% of his share of a family trust that will be distributed to beneficiaries upon the death of a Symington uncle.

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Real Deal

The pension funds won a ruling in February that Symington provided them with false financial statements in order to obtain $10 million in financing in 1990 for the Mercado, a Phoenix office and shopping complex. However, Symington prevailed in some aspects of the ruling, creating the possibility of costly appeals in the case.

Symington, a former real estate developer who was elected governor in 1991, headed the partnership that built the Mercado in 1989.

However, the Mercado went bust and Symington defaulted on the loan. In 1995, he declared personal bankruptcy, claiming $25 million in debts and $61,795 in assets, according to the AP.

Court Cost

Symington resigned as governor in 1997 after his conviction on six federal counts of bank and wire fraud for using false financial statements to obtain several loans – including the $10 million pension funds loan. He was cleared on a charge that he used his clout as governor to extort concessions on the pension funds loan.

An appeals court overturned his convictions, and then-President Clinton pardoned Symington in January as prosecutors pursued the case.

Symington, a Republican who was first elected governor in 1991, became a chef after leaving office.

– Nevin Adams