Monday (11/28) on the Philadelphia Inquirer blog Arts Watch, Peter Dobrin reports, “The judge in the Philadelphia Orchestra’s bankruptcy case has approved the orchestra’s request to turn over two of its pension plans to an agency of the federal government. Assets and liabilities of the orchestra’s internal pension plans for musicians and staff will be assumed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. under the terms of Monday’s decision by Judge Eric L. Frank. Association attorney Lawrence G. McMichael hailed the decision as a major step in the orchestra’s exit from bankruptcy, but allowed that it will mean less money for retired players. The plan—until now—topped out with a benefit of $80,000 per year. ‘They will end up getting somewhat less,’ said McMichael. ‘There’s a lot of sacrifice and we appreciate it.’ The timing of the orchestra’s exit from bankruptcy now hinges on talks with its landlord, the Kimmel Center, on restructuring the lease agreement. Also in Monday’s hearing, Frank denied a request from the American Federation of Musicians and Employers Pension Fund for a full financial examination of the Association’s financial records. … Orchestra officials said removing obligations associated with all of its pension plans—and moving to a defined contribution plan—was a key goal of the bankruptcy. Fund-raising has been hobbled, McMichael said, because potential funders have been uncomfortable with the uncertainty of the Association’s ability to meet payments.”

Posted November 29, 2011