Bond Insurers: Fight Against Detroit Bankruptcy Plan to Continue

July 23, 2014

Companies that insure Detroit bonds and stand to lose millions repeated a pledge to aggressively challenge the city’s bankruptcy plan, a day after retirees endorsed pension cuts and qualified for a bailout led by the state.

Syncora and Financial Guaranty Insurance said retirees and city workers are being given special treatment that’s unfair to other creditors.

Pension cuts were approved in a landslide, according to results from 60 days of voting, which were announced shortly before midnight on July 21.

General retirees would get a 4.5 percent pension cut and lose annual inflation adjustments. Some also have to repay a portion of generous annuity earnings from the last decade. Retired police officers and firefighters would lose only a portion of their annual cost-of-living raise.

The city said the cuts would be worse without $816 million in aid from the state of Michigan, foundations and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Money from the so-called grand bargain would prevent the sale of city-owned art and avoid deeper pension reductions.

No other creditors qualify for the money. Judge Steven Rhodes still would need to bless the deal after a trial on Detroit’s overall bankruptcy plan, which starts Aug. 14.

“We are not surprised at the vote, given the grand bargain’s illegal diversion of highly valuable assets to the very creditors who voted yes,” James Sprayregen, an attorney for Syncora, said Tuesday. “We look forward to the confirmation hearing and demonstrating to the court that the plan cannot legally be confirmed given its unfair discrimination against financial creditors and other serious infirmities.”

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Sprayregen said Detroit is “giving us an essentially zero recovery.”

Gov. Rick Snyder, who approved Detroit’s bankruptcy filing a year ago and helped get state aid for pensioners through the Legislature, hailed the vote by retirees and city workers.

“It’s a huge statement. … I really appreciate them doing that. They are making sacrifices,” he said.

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