Judge Denies PBGC Effort to Block Union's Data Request

October 16, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal judge has turned aside efforts by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) to block the United Steelworkers of America from getting data about pension plans the federal pension insurer is trying to seize.

US District Judge Peter Economus of the Northern District of Ohio ruled that the PBGC wasn’t entitled to prevent the union from getting information on cases similar to the PBGC’s efforts to have Republic Technologies International’s plans terminated, Washington-based legal publisher BNA reported.

“Information regarding the PBGC’s practices in analogous scenarios is likely to assist the Court in ensuring that the PBGC’s selection of a termination date conformed with the PBGC’s general custom and practice,” Economus wrote. .

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On June 14, 2002, PBGC filed a complaint against Republic and asked that the court establish that date as the plans’ termination date.

The United Steelworkers of America asked to get involved in the lawsuit for the purpose of challenging PBGC’s termination of two of the pension plans.

In its request to intervene, the union demanded that PBGC turn over information regarding how it selected June 14, 2002, as the plans’ termination date. In addition, the union asked that PBGC supply the union with data the PBGC used in selecting plan termination dates in analogous situations.

PBGC filed a motion for a protective order barring the union from obtaining the requested information. In particular, PBGC argued that the court must grant it deference as to the selected termination date and that information regarding the selection of termination dates in other situations was irrelevant in that such decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

Denying PBGC’s motion, Economus said rather than ruling on whether it owed deference to PBGC’s decision, he said he was allowing additional research regarding PBGC’s selected termination date.

Republic allied itself with the steelworkers union earlier this year to oppose the PBGC’s efforts. See  Republic Lines up with Steelworkers, Opposes PBGC Action  . The union said it was c oncerned that union members would be shortchanged by the PBGC.

The case is Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. v. Republic Technologies International LLC, N.D. Ohio, No. 5:02 CV 01116, 10/11/02.