Sunday, February 14, 2016

Philadelphia Orchestra management files objection to union probe

You didn't follow proper procedure, we have an awful lot of laundry and it doesn't need to be aired now - or maybe ever.

Philadelphia Orchestra management files objection to union probe

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You didn't follow proper procedure, we have an awful lot of laundry and it doesn't need to be aired now - or maybe ever.

That's in essence what the Philadelphia Orchestra Association says in an objection filed late Friday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to the American Federation of Musicians' request for a "sweeping" look into the Association's finances and operations.

The procedure - known as a 2004 Examination - has, in this case, one key ultimate objective: to determine that the Association must spend a portion of its endowment ($120 million held by the orchestra, an additional $20 million by the Academy of Music) on any liabilities it would incur by withdrawing from the current multi-employer pension plan for musicians.

The Association would like to withdraw from the plan and move players to a defined contribution plan, and does not want to emerge from bankruptcy with its endowments disturbed.

The matter is scheduled to be heard by Judge Eric L. Frank July 21.

The union's request - which includes any faxes, emails, texts, or instant messages - to and from senior management on matters relating to the musicians' contract, pension, endowment, or "projections for the future viability of the orchestra" - would take the administration "countless" hours to gather, the objection says. A provision in the local rules relating to bankruptcy was violated, the motion says, by not giving enough notice of the union's filing.

At the root, the union wants to determine whether the Association's claim is true that all of its endowment is donor-restricted, and whether the Association has documentation proving that.

But the objection says that since nothing has been determined yet as far as the future of the pension, a deep examination of records relating to donor intent is premature.

The objection concludes:

"Allowing such voluminous and burdensome discovery would be prohibitively costly and disruptive at a critical time in these Chapter 11 Cases, and would be detrimental to the Debtors’ [Association's] estates. Indeed, the benefit to the Fund is greatly outweighed by the harm suffered by the Debtors."

Inquirer Classical Music Critic
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About this blog

Peter Dobrin is a classical music critic and culture writer for The Inquirer. Since 1989, he has written music reviews, features, news and commentary for the paper, covering such topics as the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the Venice Biennale, expansion of the Curtis Institute of Music, the Philadelphia Orchestra's bankruptcy declaration in 2011, Philadelphia's evolving performing arts center and the general health of arts and culture.

Dobrin was a French horn player. He earned an undergraduate degree in performance from the University of Miami, and received a master's degree in music criticism from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied with Elliott Galkin. He has no time to practice today.

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