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House panel to examine financial health of PBGC


WASHINGTON—The head of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. will testify Thursday at a House subcommittee hearing on the agency's financial health.

The House Education and Workforce Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions subcommittee hearing comes at a time when the PBGC has a record $26 billion deficit in its insurance programs that are used to pay benefits promised by financially struggling or failed employers whose pension plans the agency has taken over.

“The weak economy and recent bankruptcies of several large employers could exacerbate the PBGC's financial condition,” the subcommittee said in a statement.

In fact, if AMR Corp. unit American Airlines Inc. terminates its four massively underfunded pension plans, the agency estimates that it could face an $8.7 billion loss, the biggest in the PBGC's history.

AMR filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization Nov. 29, 2011.

American Airlines' intent concerning the future of its pension plans, which have about 130,000 participants, could become clearer when it presents new contract proposals to its unions on Wednesday.

Aside from PBGC Director Joshua Gotbaum, others who are to testify at Thursday's House subcommittee hearing include Gretchen Haggerty, chief financial officer of U.S. Steel Corp.; Randy DeFrehn, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans; and Kenneth Porter, now president of Wilmington, Del.-based consultant Benefits Leadership International L.L.C. and the former director of corporate insurance and global benefits at E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co.