retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Content Guy’s Note: Stories in this section are, in my estimation, important and relevant to business. However, they are relegated to this slot because some MNB readers have made clear that they prefer a politics-free MNB; I can't do that because sometimes the news calls out for coverage and commentary, but at least I can make it easy for folks to skip it if they so desire.

• The Washington Post this morning reports that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) are challenging Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s ties to Sears (he was on its board) and its primary owner, Eddie Lampert - with whom he roomed at Yale.

The two high-profile Democrats - Warren is running for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, and Ocasio-Cortez is one of its most popular first-term representatives - want “Mnuchin to be more transparent about his time on Sears’s board as the retailer plunged into bankruptcy. They also take issue with his possible oversight of the company’s pension plans.”

The Post writes that “Mnuchin was one of several former board members named in a lawsuit last month, in which Sears Holding Company accused its former chairman, Eddie Lampert, and others of siphoning billions of dollars from the company as it closed stores and shed staff … The department store chain filed for bankruptcy in October and subsequently handed over responsibility of its two pension plans to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which is overseen by Mnuchin, as well as the secretaries of commerce and labor. The pension plans, which were underfunded by about $1.4 billion, affect more than 90,000 Sears workers.”

In a letter to the Treasury Secretary, the two members of Congress wrote, in part, ““We are deeply concerned by the financial engineering and potentially illegal activity that took place at Sears Holding Corporation while you served on the company’s board … In addition, we are concerned that, as Treasury Secretary, you are in position to take actions that benefit Sears’ shareholders and owners at the expense of workers and taxpayers."
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