Pension Agency Claims 'O.C. Register' Parent is Shutting Them Out on 'Confidential' Documents

By: Mark Fitzgerald The federal agency charged with safeguarding pension plans is alleging that Freedom Communications has refused access to documents relating to $100 million in pension funds at play in its bankruptcy case.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Brendan Shannon in Wilmington, Del., ended a hearing on the secrecy issue Monday without making a decision on the motion by the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corp. (PBGC) to order Freedom to hand over more than 1 million pages of documents the company claims are confidential.

Freedom has maintained that it will not permit access to the documents unless the PBGC signs a confidentiality agreement. PBGC responds that as a government agency, it has an obligation to share any information that Congress requests.

"The debtors, however, have refused to accommodate PBGC's status as a government agency," PBGC stated in a court filing last week. "Rather, the debtors insist that PBGC either forgo receiving documents deemed confidential, thus limiting PBGC's ability to function as a member of the (Creditors) Committee, or agree to withhold the documents deemed confidential, if the documents are requested by Congress or the Executive Branch. The Debtors seek to limit PBGC's role on the Committee to that of a bystander."

In court Monday, the attorney for the creditors, Robert Feinstein, maintained the pages marked confidential include "pornography, Dodgers schedules and poetry," according to an account of the hearing by the Register's Washington Bureau Chief Dena Bunis.

Freedom attorney Robert Klyman told the court all the documents were marked confidential simply because Freedom did not have the resources to review the massive number of documents. But he said the documents included trade secrets.

Creditors attorney Feinstein scoffed at that argument. "This is not the 11 herbs and spices," he said. "It prints newspapers." The reference is to the secret recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

While there were some suggestions in court that the documents could be shared with the PBGC but sealed from public view, and that certain court sessions could be closed to the public, Judge Shannon did not seem enthusiastic about those possibilities, according to the Register story. The issue "should not be done by Star Chamber," he said.


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