The 4/25/2012 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer published an article by Peter Dobrin that reports the dispute between the Philadelphia Orchestra Association (POA) and the American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund (AFM-EPF) has officially come to a close. For those unaware, the AFM-EPF had been screaming bloody murder that the POA owed as much as $35 million for exiting from the fund. Consequently, it came as a bit of a surprise to learn that AFM-EFP ended up settling for $1.75 million.
It comes as no surprise that Dobrin’s article reports that the AFM-EPF declined to comment; from a PR perspective, the settlement is an unmitigated disaster.
But even though the Fund kept quiet to the Inquirer, they did publish a single page FAQ document on 4/28/2012 titled Questions and Answers for Participants, Contributing Employers and Local Unions about the Philadelphia Orchestra Association Settlement.
[ilink url=”http://adaptistration.com/wp-content/uploads/POA-FAQ.pdf” style=”download”]Download a copy of the AFM-EPF Q&A[/ilink]
Unfortunately, some might think that the document doesn’t do much to repair the PR damage when it offers up the following information (emphasis added).
Q&A 4: What about the prospect of other employers doing the same thing as the POA?
Participants and contributing employers that are concerned that they will be left “holding the bag” because of bankrupt employers should take comfort in the fact that the Fund’s actions in the POA bankruptcy have demonstrated that bankruptcy is not an easy way to get out of a pension obligation. It is expensive for a potential debtor, takes a very long time to resolve (more than a year in this case), and can result in the loss not only of donor confidence but of the very musicians that make orchestras possible.
Pardon the candor, but who are they trying to convince? Based on comments in Dobrin’s article from the POA’s bankruptcy lawyer, Lawrence G. McMichael, it seems clear that the association is thrilled with the settlement.
“Our objective was total peace,” said McMichael, “and spending $1.75 million was worth it to achieve total peace and a quick resolution of the bankruptcy…”
What do you think; does either group come out of this settlement on top? What do you think of the content from the AFM-EPF’s FAQ document? Will a settlement that provides for a five percent payout on a multi-million dollar claim encourage other contributors to follow the POA’s path?