The Federal District Court took the next step towards preliminary approval of the proposed settlement agreement between Singing River Health System and pension plan members on Wednesday during a scheduled preliminary hearing.

The preliminary hearing was a review of the settlement agreement filed by Federal interim lead counsel Jim Reeves. The settlement includes:

  •  100% repayment of all missing money since 2009
  • Singing River Hospital must pay $149,950,000 to the retirement plan
  • Pension members will pay no attorney fees or expenses
  • Appointment of a Special Fiduciary as a “watchdog” for the trust
  • Continued court supervision of the pension plan and repayment
  • Appointment of new hospital trustees
  • No plan changes unless court-approved

Additionally, the Jackson County Board of Supervisors has agreed to support Singing River Hospital operations primarily to prevent a bond default and to support indigent care by paying an additional $13,600,000 to SRHS between 2016 and 2024.

Reeves & Mestayer law firm is seeking Final Certification of the Class Action Settlement which will result in a universal solution to the pension crisis.

“Granting preliminary approval means the Court has examined the materials submitted and determined that the proposed settlement appears fair,” said Matthew Mestayer. “This is not final approval but is a very important first step.”

The Court also appointed Mr. Reeves, who had previously been appointed interim class counsel, as co-lead class counsel going forward. Regarding the appointment, Reeves said, “I am honored by the appointment and intend to continue to work as hard as I can for the best possible result for the class members.”

Also appointed to serve as co-lead class counsel is attorney Steve Nicholas with Cunningham & Bounds, LLC from Mobile, AL.

The next step in Federal Court will be a “Fairness Hearing” scheduled for May 16, 2016 at 10 a.m., to determine whether the Class Settlement should be given final approval.

“The proposed settlement represents 100% of the money SRHS owes the plan and requires key changes at the hospital, like the resignation of trustees, which has already begun,” said Reeves. “Obtaining the benefits owed for all of those in the pension continues to be our top priority.”

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