Judge ready to decide SRHS pension settlement

Judge ready to decide SRHS pension settlement

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The $150 million settlement to save the troubled Singing River Health System pension fund is now in the hands of federal judge Louis Guirola.
 A two day fairness hearing ended late Tuesday. Judge Guirola was tasked with deciding whether or not the agreement was fair, reasonable and adequate.

SRHS did not contribute to the pension fund between 2009 and 2014. The hospital system will pay the $150 million over a 35 year period to make sure retirees receive 100 percent of their benefits and current workers will have a solvent pension plan.

Attorney Jim Reeves who helped engineer the settlement is confident that the deal will make people whole. On Tuesday, concerned retirees testified that the have lost confidence in the health system and Reeves believes significant safeguards are in place to help rebuild trust.

"They should feel better because the people and hospital that got them into this situation are no longer in charge of their money. We have new trustees, a special fiduciary and court oversight. There will never be a day where the plan can be terminated in the dead of night with someone just sending a letter. If it happens, it will be in open court, Everyone will have a chance to be heard," said Reeves.

On Tuesday, those objecting to the settlement testified. Attorneys Harvey Barton and Earl Denham, who represent 205 of the 615 retirees, brought people to the witness stand to give personal and at times tearful testimony.

"There was a 71-year-old woman up there today who washed bed pans, cleaned blood off the floor and walked five miles to work. She'll lose everything she has if this thing comes down wrong. The problem with the plan is that nobody can tell my clients what they are going to get and it lets the county off the hook. It's inexcusable," Denham said.

Judge Guirola will now weigh the arguments and look at all the relevant documents before announcing his decision realizing that it will be only a step towards renewing faith.

"Nothing this court will do can completely restore public confidence, but it's a step in the right direction," Guirola said.

The judge is expected to reveal his decision in the next 30 days.

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