A&P: Not Liable to Pension Partners

MONTVALE, N.J. — A&P [3] here is accusing rival Ahold [4] of purposefully snarling its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case by making “illusory” claims of potential pension liabilities.

Ahold on behalf of its U.S. banners Giant-Landover and Stop & Shop has filed 216 separate proofs of claim for any increases in pension contributions that Giant and Stop & Shop may have to pay as a result of A&P’s withdrawal from multi-employer pension plans in which Giant and Stop & Shop participate.

A&P in response to Ahold’s claims argued that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 states that companies that withdraw from such multi-employer pension funds are liable to the fund itself and not to individual participants. Although Ahold did not identify particular funds that would require additional contributions, A&P acknowledged it would withdraw from one such plan, Food Employers Labor Relations Association plan, or FERLA.

A&P further asked the court to disallow what it called “vague lease-related claims” intended to impede progress toward the retailer’s emergence from Chapter 11. “Ahold would undoubtedly prefer that the debtors liquidate and sell off their assets at a discount rather than reorganize in the best interests of the debtors’ stakeholders and emerge from bankruptcy as a formidable competitor — even if Ahold’s ‘claims’ were left worthless in the process,” A&P said in court papers. A hearing on the matter is scheduled Feb. 6 at U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y.