One chapter of the Bankruptcy Code that up until the last few years had not gotten much use is Chapter 9. It is the chapter under which municipalities such as cities and counties file for bankruptcy protection.
On October 13th, 2011, I wrote a post predicting that a wave of municipal bankruptcies would start breaking on our shores. On August 15th, 2012, I discussed several municipal bankruptcies that had just been filed. One of those bankruptcies, the Stockton, California, one has just been in the news because of a dispute over whether Stockton could reduce its payments to CalPERS, the retirement plan for California public employees.
Here’s an excerpt from the L.A. Times article written by Chris Megerian, Melody Petersen, and Dean Starkman, describing the ruling by the bankruptcy judge, Christopher Klein:
A federal bankruptcy judge dealt a serious blow to California’s public employee pension systems by ruling Wednesday that payments for future worker retirements can be reduced when a city declares bankruptcy — just like its other debts. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein ruled that bankruptcy law supersedes California pension laws that require cities to fund their workers’ future retirement checks. “I’ve concluded the pension could be adjusted,” Klein said.
What does that mean for California public employees who work for a municipality that files for Chapter 9 protection? Quite simply it means that the Rolls Royce retirement plan might end up as more of a Yugo plan.