The Earthmover and Fife

Bill Dereschuk is one pensioner who wants Symington to prevail in his bankruptcy case

Fife Symington's luck has been so good, he seems remarkably confident at his bankruptcy trial.

He knows that instead of spending his evenings in a prison cell, he will be whisking cream sauce at Franco's.

Fife Symington maintains he's innocent.
Doug Hoeschler
Fife Symington maintains he's innocent.
Bill Dereschuk
Paolo Vescia
Bill Dereschuk

Despite many legal setbacks, the unions vow to continue fighting to recover their money. If the pension funds succeed in bankruptcy court, they will pursue Symington's accountant, Coopers & Lybrand, and keep a close eye on any inheritance Symington might get in order to garnish it.

But is McMorgan getting the pension funds to pay for a legal melee to cover its own mistake, as Dereschuk alleges? Is it a waste of money and time to go after a bankrupt ex-governor?

"Absolutely not," says McMorgan spokesman Paul Morton.

"From the beginning we have conducted an ongoing evaluation of cost and benefit of pursuing this particular debt to the plan. We still believe it is an appropriate and prudent course to follow. It is the trustees' and management's duty . . . to pursue any asset of the plan that can benefit participants. We cannot walk away and we will not walk away when the stakes are real. We believe as part of the ongoing evaluation that there are [Symington] assets . . . there are enough avenues, be it personal wealth or future business engagements, that will be satisfied."

"No amount of distraction can change the fundamentals of this case," he says.

"A commitment was made to pay this loan and that commitment has not been honored."

He does not agree that McMorgan failed on its commitment to the pension funds to check out the Symington financial statement before okaying the Mercado loan.

Bill Dereschuk is not the most popular guy at Operating Engineers Local 428 these days. Beyond his trial vigil, Dereschuk has repeatedly badgered union trustees for bank records that detail some unexplained expenditures.

The trustees arrogantly refused Dereschuk's request, saying that copying the records was too expensive and time-consuming and was not required by laws governing union pension funds.

So Dereschuk sicced the Department of Labor on Local 428. The department is currently investigating the bank records.

Michael Keenan, an attorney for the trustees, tells me Dereschuk's never-ending suspicions about possible wrongdoing are groundless. He says Local 428 is cooperating with the Department of Labor.

(Dereschuk is uncomfortable about the fact that I am writing about him, and not his other union buddies who are equally distrustful and suspicious of the management at Operating Engineers Local 428. He repeatedly says his friends Tommy Garner and Dale Helm have worked just as hard as he has, and explains that his name appears on correspondence to the union because the Dereschuk family owns a computer and his grandson can type.)

Dereschuk is the first to admit that pension-fund management will be vindicated if Manning succeeds in blocking Symington's debt.

Nevertheless, he is determined to bust the pension fund. He says he has a good chance because, among other things, the fund stopped taking new members in 1984. That means quite a few of the people who contributed to the pension might be close to retiring.

Why wouldn't they want to manage their own retirement money?

Why should they entrust their hard-earned dollars to trustees who turn around and spend it on lousy real estate loans and expensive lawyers and money managers to clean up the mess?

If the Local 428 dissidents ever succeed in getting their money, you can bet on one thing.

Bill Dereschuk won't go to cooking school.

Contact Terry Greene Sterling at 602-229-8437, or online at

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