Do not just read headlines, read the details.
The devil lies in the details.
nothing is set in stone. yet.
THERE IS NO MONEY AVAILABLE NOW, AND NO GUARANTEE THERE WILL BE.
Some of the legalese and concepts may be difficult to follow and understand. Please consult with someone you trust and is knowledgeable on these matters.
The proposed settlement by Singing River Health System is just that PROPOSED. Several media outlets and attorneys are portraying the settlement as a “done deal.” It is not. There is simply an agreement between some players, who are asking the District Judge Louis Guirola to approve and order EVERYONE to comply with.
What is true: Jim Reeves, who represents one group of plaintiffs, has signed a settlement agreement with attorneys for SRHS, its trustees, Mike Crews, Chris Anderson, and Stephanie Barnes Taylor. Billy Guice has also signed the agreement on behalf of Jackson County. Jackson County was never sued by Reeves. Special Fiduciary Steve Simpson is expected to sign once he receives approval in Jackson County Chancery Court.
What is contained in the settlement?
SRHS is agreeing to pay $149 million over the next 35 years. This is simply a payment plan. THERE IS NO GUARANTEE OF PAYMENT.
The settlement also provides that anyone who participates will forever give up any claim they might have against any SRHS entity or employee, its trustees, Chris Anderson, Mike Crews, Stephanie Barnes Taylor, and Jackson County. Remember, Jackson County was never named in this suit.
Is Singing River admitting wrong-doing?
No. No party is admitting anything as a result of this settlement proposal.
Is this a “done deal?”
No. The court must first notify everyone affected by the lawsuit. This number is purported to be around 3,100 people. The court will then hold a hearing to determine if the settlement is fair to everyone.
Will I be able to file suit on my own?
Possibly. Under the documents filed by Jim Reeves, he is asking the court to subvert your constitutional right to a jury trial. He is asking for what is known as a “non opt out” or “mandatory” settlement. This means if you disagree with the proposed settlement, YOU WILL HAVE NO RIGHTS to ask the court for different terms. You will have a right and opportunity to object before the court rules on this.
I don’t like this proposed arrangement. May I object?
Yes. You may object to the arrangement in its current form. You will be notified by your last known mailing address on file with the Singing River pension plan of the deadlines for filing an objection. CAUTION: Your objection must be in written form and comply with certain rules of the court. If you do not file a proper written objection with the court by the deadline, YOU WILL LOSE ANY AND ALL RIGHTS TO OBJECT.
It is important and advisable that if you object to the proposed settlement, that you should have qualified legal counsel. You will not be able to object on your own and preserve your rights in an adequate manner.
How much money will the lawyers be paid?
Jim Reeves is asking for nearly $6.6 million.
Will my pension be reduced?
This information is known to several parties, but is not being widely disclosed. Officially, no, but is highly likely.
If there is a reduction, how much will it be?
This settlement will do nothing to address pension distribution payments to retirees. All of these matters will be left to Special Fiduciary Steve Simpson and the Jackson County Chancery Court.
What will happen if there is a reduction? Is it automatic?
No. In order for the Special Fiduciary to make any changes to pension distributions to retirees, he must have the approval of the Jackson County Chancery Court. The court will give 60 days notice and hold a hearing. The findings of the court will be binding, only leaving you with very limited rights of appeal.
Can the pension plan be terminated?
Yes. There is nothing in the settlement agreement to stop termination of the plan or payments. Again, all of these matters are left in the hands of the Special Fiduciary and the chancery court as outlined above.
What happens if SRHS is misses a payment?
If SRHS misses a scheduled payment, a hearing will be scheduled in the Jackson County Chancery Court to determine the course of action.
We again wish to emphasize that this “settlement agreement” is only an agreement between one group of plaintiffs and certain defendants. This agreement currently has no effect on anyone, other than to allow the court to set hearings on the fairness of this part of the settlement. It is NOT A DONE DEAL. To say it is a done deal is to disrespect the authority of Judge Guirola, the principles and practice of jurisprudence, and the Constitution of the United States. The litigation against other defendants will be able to continue.
There are still cases pending against KPMG. Wouldn’t you hate to find out that ***example only*** Chris Anderson conspired with KPMG to cook the books at SRHS leading to the pension plan failure? KPMG would still be on the hook, but Anderson would not have to pay a single dollar. Again, this is just a hypothetical to demonstrate the perils of a settlement with such limited discovery.
If you don’t agree with the terms of this proposed settlement, we recommend you find a lawyer to assist you. Earl Denham (228-875-1234) and Harvey Barton (228-769-2070) have been outspoken critics of the lack of transparency and information made available in the judicial proceedings. Dustin Thomas (228-696-8881) is also an attorney working on behalf of plaintiffs in this matter in federal court. If you don’t like any of those options, you should seek out other competent counsel.
This is a simple Q & A. We will focus in and highlight particular egregious issues with the settlement agreement in later posts.