Puerto Rico retiree advocates: Money to pay pensions is in judge’s courtroom
Argue conflicts of interest behind certain bond issuances persist today
SAN JUAN — Spokespeople of Construyamos Otro Acuerdo (COA; roughly, Let’s Construct Another Agreement), a campaign that seeks to organize communities for Puerto Rico’s recovery “through a democratically led debt restructuring process” and focuses on achieving a better outcome for pensioners in the island’s bankruptcy-like proceedings, together with watchdog network Little Sis, a project of the nonprofit Public Accountability Initiative, said new research reveals that funds to pay public pensions can be found among the $30 billion being litigated in the courtroom of Judge Laura Taylor Swain, who oversees the Title III cases under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (Promesa).
Little Sis researcher Abner Dennis, the author of a report published Wednesday, “Puerto Rico’s Debt Battles: The Oversight Board Goes on a Suing Spree,” details the pending claims and the amount of money, including interest, that could be recovered if the judge declares certain Puerto Rico bond issuances illegal.
In his report, Dennis, who is a spokesperson for COA, wrote: “All this money could be used to pay for essential services and for the payment of pensions” if the judge declares the challenged bonds illegal, referring to government services such as healthcare, education and security, he explained in a release.
“In this update of the report we published last March, we explained the status of the claims filed by the Fiscal Control Board to declare certain bond issues illegal. Lawsuits that were obtained thanks to the pressure exerted by efforts like ours and that of other entities that demand the debt be audited and the publication of another report that we did where we speak directly about the pensions, ‘The Puerto Rico Pension Heist.’ For that reason, we do not understand how it is possible to go against our elderly when there are billions of dollars that could be recovered with these lawsuits,” Dennis questioned.
COA spokespeople added that although the fiscal board sued banks, bondholders and companies some “important names” are missing in the lawsuits, “such as banks and law firms that underwrote and counseled the challenged bonds,” the piece reads.
“As we have said before, there are names missing here, there is money needed to be recovered for the people of Puerto Rico, money to be used for our elderly, for health, for schools and for the university,” said Julio López, a spokesperson for COA and Hedge Clippers, a group that investigates hedge and private equity funds as part of its income-equality advocacy. “With all that money, plus what is already in Judge Swain’s hands, the pensions and all the essential services of all Puerto Ricans can be maintained.”