OA284: Drain the Swamp, Starring Gordon Hartogensis

Today’s episode is a tragedy in three acts, bringing together three seemingly-unrelated stories: (1) understanding the looming crisis at the Pension Benefits ordonuarantee Corporation; (2) figuring out who Gordon Hartogensis is and why he’s about to gain control over potentially hundreds of billions of dollars in assets; and finally, (3) putting together all the pieces to see how President Trump has acted to protect his crony, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, from potential criminal and civil liability in connection with his management of Sears. Strap in; it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

We begin in Act I, in which the guys break down the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), its creation, the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), and the developments over the last 45 years that have pushed the PBGC to the brink of collapse.

Act II, then, takes over with the recently-appointed International Man of Mystery, Gordon Hartogensis, to lead the PBGC. Who is this guy, and what has he done to inspire confidence that he can right the ship? Listen and find out!

Act III weaves these stories together with the ongoing civil lawsuit by Sears against Steven Mnuchin and his buddy Eddie Lampert, who are alleged to have looted Sears’s assets, driving it into bankruptcy. You’ll never guess who bought those assets in bankruptcy… or, perhaps you’ll instantly guess who did.

After all that, it’s time for the answer to Thomas Takes the Bar Exam #128 involving a crazy fast-food heist involving an imaginary sniper and the drive-thru lane. Did you get it right??


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Show Notes & Links

  1. Check out ERISA, 29 U.S.C. ยงยง 1001 et seq.
  2. You can also read the text and a breakdown of the key provisions of the PPA, which passed the Senate 93-5.
  3. For a sad laugh, check out the PBGC’s own scant “Who the hell is Gordon Hartogensis?” page. The first person to break this story was Politico’s Ian Kullgren, who wrote this article.
  4. We first covered the Sears/Lampert/Mnuchin story back in Episode 273, and you can read the Warren/Ocasio-Cortez letter here.

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