Stockton bankruptcy plan approved with no pension cuts

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1 AGENDA OF: FEBRUARY 24, 2015 ITEM NO: IIII Stockton bankruptcy plan approved with no pension cuts 030/0NLlNE/ /stockton-bankruptcyplan-approved-with-no-pension-cuts By Bloomberg I October 30, :59 pm I Updated 4:04 pm Stockton, Calif., won court approval of its plan to exit bankruptcy by paying bond investors pennies on the dollar while fully protecting public-worker pension benefits, in a case that has been watched by other cities in the state facing heavy retiree costs. "This plan, I'm persuaded, is the best that could be done in terms of restructuring the city's debts," U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein said at a hearing Thursday in Sacramento. Stockton's bankruptcy pitted public pension advocates against investors, who stood to recover a fraction of what they're owed for their bonds. Bankruptcy lawyers and pension advocates nationwide followed the case to see whether pension benefits administered by the $293.7 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, Sacramento, would be shielded from cuts. This month, Mr. Klein ruled that CalPERS doesn't deserve special protection, the first time the state pension fund was found vulnerable to cuts in a bankruptcy. CalPERS and public worker groups decried the decision. Last year, a bankruptcy court in Detroit ruled against pension funds in a similar situation. Detroit will learn next week whether it can proceed with a $7 billion debt-cutting plan. The city filed the biggest U.S. municipal bankruptcy last year, listing $18 billion in liabilities. Its trip through court has been faster than Stockton's, and settlements that impose cuts on major creditor groups, including retirees and some bondholders, were reached through mediation. Stockton's exit plan leaves the pension benefits alone. Ending the contract with CalPERS would have reduced them by 60% and caused many employees to leave, Marc Levinson, Stockton's lead bankruptcy attorney, has said. It would have taken years to set up a new pension system, Mr. Levinson said.

2 The city cut deals with most creditors, including unions and retirees. The holdout was Franklin Resources, which attacked the plan as unfair. The money manager claimed that CalPERS shouldn't be given special treatment. Under the city's plan, CalPERS will be fully repaid while two Franklin funds will get back only about 1 % of the unsecured portion of the $36 million they're owed. Franklin will get full payment on its $4 million secured claim.

3 Franklin Appeals Stockton's Bankruptcy Plan Approval by Steven Church 12:43 PM PST November 14, 2014 Nov. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Funds affiliated with Franklin Resources Inc., the last major holdout creditors in Stockton California's bankruptcy, are appealing a judge's decision to approve the city's debt-cutting plan. Franklin complained from the beginning of the bankruptcy case in 2012 that the city was unfairly targeting it while refusing to cut worker pensions. Under the city's plan, the California Public Employees' Retirement System would be protected from any cuts, while two Franklin funds would get back less than 1 percent of the unsecured portion of about $36 million they're owed. Franklin will get full payment on its $4 million secured claim. The appeal will be referred to a special bankruptcy appellate panel in Pasadena, California, according to a Nov. 13 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sacramento. Stockton, a city of 298,000 about 80 miles (130 kilometers) east of San Francisco, filed for bankruptcy after spending too much on downtown improvement projects and seeing its property-tax revenue plunge in the housing crisis. Creditors filed $1.18 billion in claims. Stockton reached deals with most of its creditors, including current and retired workers and bondholders. The city declined to cut pension benefits, arguing that doing so would require it to cancel its contract with Calpers, prompting a $1.6 billion termination payment. The judge overseeing the case, Christopher Klein, ruled that the termination payment wouldn't get preferential treatment, a finding that Calpers disputed. The case is In re Stockton, 12-bk-32118, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of California (Sacramento).

4 To contact the reporter on this story: Steven Church in Wilmington, Delaware at To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Dunn at Peter Blumberg

5 Appeal threatens Stockton bankruptcy ruling on pensions By Dale Kasler - 11/14/20149:26 AM Updated: 11/14/20149:17 PM Taking aim again at government pensions, an angry creditor in Stockton's bankruptcy case is appealing a pivotal court ruling that preserved the city's retirement plans. Franklin Templeton Investments filed a notice of appeal this week, challenging the Oct. 30 decision that approved Stockton's reorganization plan. The plan keeps the pensions fully funded but pays Franklin, which loaned the city $36 million during better economic times, just 12 cents on the dollar. The case in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sacramento has been a major legal test of the sanctity of public pensions in California. City officials and CaIPERS, which runs the Stockton retirement program, fought hard to keep their relationship intact in the face of the challenge from Franklin. Stockton pays CalPERS about $29 million a year, a figure that is growing. On Oct. 1, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein ruled that Stockton had the right to slash its payments to CaIPERS, a decision that sent shock waves through the pension industry and had public employee unions scrambling. A month later, though, the judge approved the Stockton reorganization plan even though it leaves the city's pensions untouched. City officials and CalPERS had argued that even a partial reduction in Stockton's pension contributions would have ruinous effects. A complicated mechanism would be set in motion that would have reduced retirement benefits by 60 percent, and Stockton officials predicted a mass exodus by police officers and other city workers. "It would be no simple task to go back and redo the pensions," Klein acknowledged. Franklin argued there was no proof that city workers would quit in droves. Besides, the investment firm said, it was simply unfair to pay CalPERS in full while giving Franklin such a meager repayment on its debt.

6 Rebuffed at the lower court level, Franklin is taking its case to the 9th Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel in Pasadena. "We intend to continue to fight for a fair and equitable recovery for our fund investors," said Franklin spokeswoman Stacey Coleman by . She added that Franklin believes Klein "made many factual and legal errors in concluding that the Stockton plan satisfies the applicable requirements of the Bankruptcy Code." Klein's ruling would allow the city to exit bankruptcy, more than two years after it filed for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy. The Franklin appeal keeps the case going. Stockton City Manager Kurt Wilson, in a prepared statement, said the appeal isn't surprising. "We faced an unprecedented level of opposition because we made unprecedented levels of difficult decisions," he said. CalPERS Chief Executive Anne Stausboll, also in a prepared statement, defended Klein's ruling, "which protected the pension promises made to (Stockton's) public employees and allows the city and its employees to finally move forward." Call The Bee's Dale Kasler, (916) Follow him on

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