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Horizon bankers make $9.5 million from “the pain and suffering of miners,” UMWA says

date: 
March 29, 2007

The March 22, 2006, decision by a federal judge to uphold the payment of over $9.5 million in fees and expenses to investment bankers involved in the 2004 bankruptcy proceeding of Horizon Natural Resources is a “repugnant act that demonstrates once again the gross inequality and injustice that typify America’s bankruptcy laws,” United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts said today.

“It’s outrageous in the extreme that a group of New York investment bankers can profit to the tune of $9.5 million from causing extreme pain and suffering to miners, their families, retirees and coalfield communities in West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana,” Roberts said.

“While these bankers can now go out and buy an extra Mercedes for their weekend jaunts to the Hamptons, the miners, retirees and families left without jobs or health care benefits as a result of the Horizon bankruptcy are still recovering”“and some may never recover,” Roberts said.

“This company”“Horizon Natural Resources - appeared to be set up to fail from the very beginning,” Roberts said. “And once it did, the only people who suffered from its failure were the workers. They’re the ones who lost their jobs, and they’re the ones who lost their health care.

“The company’s owners didn’t suffer from this - they walked away with millions,” Roberts said. “The buyers of the properties didn’t suffer - they were able to buy viable coal properties for a song. And now the bankers who engineered the deal are getting their payback as well.”

Roberts noted that immediately upon the dissolution of Horizon in August 2004, the UMWA picked up the health care for active workers and their families and retirees who did not initially qualify for a UMWA retiree health care fund, and maintained those benefits for seven months. The Union paid over $6 million in health care benefits during that time.

“Horizon’s actions - and the decision of a bankruptcy judge in 2004 to cut off health care benefits through the bankruptcy proceedings - had the potential of directly causing the deaths of several people who depended on those health care benefits,” Roberts said. “Had the UMWA not picked up their benefits, they could have died.

“The fact that the bankruptcy laws allow something like this to happen demonstrates just how high the economic deck is stacked against working families in America,” Roberts said. “We come last in the eyes of the current political leadership in Washington, who have done nothing to fix the bankruptcy laws as industry after industry uses them to break their collective bargaining agreements and throw working families’ lives into chaos.”

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