Jackson County

US Supreme Court gives Singing River retirees their final answer

‘This settlement is destined to fail,’ attorney for SRHS retirees argues

Harvey Barton, attorney for Singing River Health System retirees, argues during a hearing with Chancery Court Judge Breland Hilburn on Wednesday, December 2, 2015, that the settlement won't fund the pension enough.
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Harvey Barton, attorney for Singing River Health System retirees, argues during a hearing with Chancery Court Judge Breland Hilburn on Wednesday, December 2, 2015, that the settlement won't fund the pension enough.

The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which on Monday denied the appeal by those who objected to the Singing River Pension Plan Class Action Settlement.

The ruling means $156 million now can begin to be paid into the plan, according to Jim Reeves, lead attorney, with Reeves & Mestayer in Biloxi.

Reeves said the Supreme Court action will provide much-needed funding to the struggling pension plan. Approximately $7 million held in escrow should be deposited quickly into the fund, he said, and additional payments will be paid over the next 20-plus years.

“This is a great day for the pension members”, Reeves said “Frivolous appeals have delayed funding for years and cost the plan millions. That should be all over with this ruling.”

In January 2018, attorneys for Singing River Health System told the court the hospital is financially able to pay into the failed pension plan.

The proposed settlement involves 3,200 current and past employees of the county hospital system, with 200 opposed to it because they felt it would fail within a few years from lack of funding.

A couple of lawsuits remain, Reeves said, including one by Transamerica, the SRHS retirement plan administrator.

“The plan by this settlement has been made whole. We will now push to make the pension members whole as well,” he said.

The hospital system, which is owned by Jackson County, announced in early 2014 it had been for years stringing along uncollectible debt amounting to $88 million and calling it revenue.

The board voted to dismantle the employee pension plan and when retirees sued, the county intervened and the plan was frozen until it could be sorted out in court.

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Mary Perez is the business and casino reporter for the Sun Herald and also writes about Biloxi, jobs and the new restaurants and development coming to the Coast. She is a fourth-generation journalist.


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