Patriot Coal's Bankruptcy
Propublica and a number of other sources are covering the Patriot Coal bankruptcy and what it is doing to the coal-mining retirees who were promised continued health benefits:
When the plan was filed in U.S. bankruptcy court in Richmond last week, however, one group didn’t come out so well: 208 retired miners, wives and widows in southern Indiana who have no direct connection to Patriot Coal. Millions of dollars earmarked for their health care as they age would effectively be diverted instead to legal fees and other bills from the bankruptcy.
As the article explains:
Patriot is not putting the $22 million toward the Squaw Creek health care benefits. According to the court filings, only $4 million will go toward that purpose — $1 million for the benefits of former salaried managers at the mine, and $3 million for the rank-and-file miners.
The rest of the money from Alcoa — $18 million — is going to cover the costs of the bankruptcy. This includes the fees for Kirkland & Ellis, which has at least four attorneys from New York and Chicago on the case, and the Washington, D.C. restructuring advisory firm - Alvarez & Marsal. The agreement with Alcoa, one filing states, “allows the Debtors (that is, Patriot) to obtain cash in the amount of $22,000,000, which will be critical for funding the Debtors’ costs associated with emerging from chapter 11.”
In other words, the cash for health care benefits guaranteed to miners who never worked for Patriot Coal — who live in a state far from Patriot’s base in West Virginia — is now being used to pay the bills of lawyers and other professionals overseeing the break-up of Patriot Coal.
Add this to earlier news that Patriot, despite its bankruptcy, had given huge bonuses to it's top executives. How are our local "newspapers" handling the Patriot bankruptcy story? In searching for an answer, I found nothing recent about the miners' plight although I did find a couple of local references to the effects of the bankruptcy. In July, Ian Hicks wrote a story about our local congressional delegation's support for a bill to protect miner pensions. (I could find no subsequent action on the bill.) And in 2013 when Patriot declared bankruptcy, Casey Junkins explained why Murray Energy was objecting to the bankruptcy. Thus, our local "newspapers" have virtually ignored the Patriot bankruptcy and the subsequent miners' problems but at least they've managed to provide some good publicity for our congressional delegation and they've given us the opportunity to read what Robert Murray thinks about the matter -- that's what really matters.
Just another Murray Energy PR release posing as front-page news
Today's afternoon "newspaper" tells us that "Murray Suing Over Information Request." Over one-third of the article is quoted material from the PR release and, of course, no Murray Energy article is complete without a few words about the devastation caused by the Obama administration:
"The Obama administration's so-called Stream Protection Rule is the single greatest threat to the jobs and family livelihoods of our employees that I have seen in my 58 years of coal minining experience," commented Robert E. Murray, who founded the company and is its chairman, president and chief executive officer.
I have an excuse for reading this crap - I need blogging material. But I sometimes do wonder "does anybody else actually read and take seriously these real-news-challenged stories?"