The CNMI government’s weekly payments of $1 million to the Settlement Fund allows the Fund to avoid depleting its investments, thereby extending the Fund’s investment horizon, according to a federal judge.
In an order on Tuesday, U.S. District Court for the NMI designated Judge Frances M. Tydingco-Gatewood also lauded Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and the Legislature for making the payments to the retirees a priority.
The judge, who got an update on the status of the Settlement Fund last Sept. 2 from Settlement Fund trustee and principal representative Joyce C. H. Tang, expressed pleasure at the status of the Betty Johnson class action.
Not only have the retirees received the 75 percent payments guaranteed under the settlement agreement in Johnson’s class action, but the CNMI government also continues to pay the retirees the 25 percent benefit payment and has approved a bonus payment of over $1,000 for each retiree for fiscal year 2018, she said.
Tydingco-Gatewood expressed her gratitude to Torres and the CNMI Legislature, “under the leadership of Senate President Arnold I. Palacios and House Speaker Rafael S. Demapan, for their good governance.”
The judge said the CNMI government has been “extremely cooperative” with Tang and has been diligent in making its payments.
She noted that the CNMI economy appears to have improved to a point where the CNMI government has been making regular payments of $1 million per week to the Settlement Fund.
“The court appreciates the hard work of these leaders in serving the needs of the retirees while balancing competing interests of the entire community in a timely, appropriate, and responsive manner,” Tydingco-Gatewood said.
Noting the close working relationship between Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson and Settlement Fund administrator Lillian Pangelinan, the judge said the two officials’ weekly telephone conferences help ensure that the Settlement Fund receives enough funds to make biweekly payments to Johnson’s class members.
Tydingco-Gatewood also praised Tang and the lawyers of Johnson’s class members—Margery Bronster and Robert Hatch—for adhering to their fiduciary duties and “their persistence and attention to this case.”
She thanked Tang and her staff “for their hard work and diligence in ensuring that the class members receive the benefits due them.”
“The court is hopeful that the parties can continue to work cooperatively with the trustee and one another to ensure that all obligations to the class are met,” she said.
The judge tentatively set a status hearing in April 2018.