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Friday, August 17, 2007

Soul Suckers

During yesterday's status conference, it became abundantly clear that the legal parsing done by the PERB's high California wideboys (and widegirls) has taken a turn for the worse. PERS just doesn't want to obey the Supreme Court and the fatcats from California have convinced them to behave like children who require exact and precise instructions before they might choose to understand. Case in point: PERS claims it doesn't understand Judge Kantor's injunction. PERS has interpreted it correctly that they can't collect money via invoicing, so they've stopped that. They were supposed to return money already deducted or paid in lump sum, which they're refusing to do. My reading said they were supposed to restore us to the condition we were in when the Legislature adjourned, which to me means that we should be getting large checks and vastly increased benefits due to the COLAs that were illegally withheld. PERS paid uninvoiced retirees a COLA on 8/1/07, but it was for 2007, not retroactive to 2003 as it is supposed to be.

In an incredible piece of parsing, PERS has decided that the injunction ONLY refers to collections of overpayments made after the Notice of Entitlement was issue. They believe that collecting overpayments and correcting benefits to their "right" (11.33% for 1999) amount is still within their purview. Thus, they told the judge that they were planning to continue the calculations of correct benefits and establishing the current level of benefit members should be at. It wasn't clear from this shaggy dog tale that PERS actually plans to notify the 70% whose benefit hasn't changed (except for the 2007 COLA) that their benefits are being reduced, or whether PERS is simply continuing with the calculations awaiting for an OK from the Court to send these out en masse.

The Court's reaction to this was interesting. Judge Kantor did not tell PERS they couldn't do this. He merely reminded them that his order wasn't final and that he would make double-dog sure that his final order would be crystal clear so that even the children at PERS could understand. My only question is whether anything a Judge writes that disagrees with PERS' take on the situation will ever be understood. I'm beginning to be convinced that PERS needs a Doctor Seuss-like picture book and rhyme to make judicial orders clear.

I can't begin to tell how how tiresome these California lawyers have become. Mr. Malkin is a caricature of a house elf in Harry Potter - he personally reminds me of Kreatcher. These guys are in it for the money and the longer they can string PERS along, the more money they make. Soul suckers of retirees' money coming and going.

I believe that out of all the decisions the 2003 legislature made, the absolute worst one was to permit the PERS Board to retain independent counsel and not rely on the DOJ in matters involving financial issues. This decision has already put nearly $3 million of members/retirees money into the hands of Orrick in San Francisco, and promises at least as much in additional billing if they persuade the PERB to pursue appeals of Arken and/or Robinson all the way to the Supreme Court. It isn't that other lawyers are profiting handsomely from all this litigation. At least Jim Coon and Hartman's firm get their money more-or-less voluntarily from members of the PERS Coalition. Orrick's money to fight retirees comes from accounts that would, under ordinary circumstances, be used to improve the reserves or be paid out to PER active members. It all gets written off under the category of "administrative expenses", which are those paid out of investment earnings BEFORE earnings are distributed to members.

Smile. It only hurts if you think about it. Ignorance is bliss on this detail, but what I can't figure out is why there aren't more happy people.

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