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Pensions Get Bolder In Challenging Private Equity On Investments’ Human Cost

Michelle Perez of Vancouver, Wash., was among those laid off when Toys “R” Us closed. Ms. Perez, 28, said she had spoken to officials with pension funds about the difficulty she faced as a single mother trying to find a new job, without severance to provide any cushion.

“We are getting listened to,” she said.

The toy store workers also made their case to pension funds that invest with Bain.

By late summer, their efforts had begun to bear fruit: K.K.R. and Bain agreed to contribute up to $20 million between them to a hardship fund for the workers, although the final amount and terms had not been set, according to people briefed on the matter. Both firms declined to comment.

Last month, Minnesota lifted the suspension on future K.K.R. investments after learning that the firm had agreed to contribute to the hardship fund.

Vornado has not indicated that it planned to participate, according to the workers’ group. The firm did not respond to requests for comment.

The toy store workers are still pushing to recoup all of the $75 million they are owed in severance. Lately, they have been urging New Jersey to put pressure on Solus Alternative Asset Management, which owns some of the failed retailer’s debt. New Jersey has $300 million invested with Solus.

Solus has indicated that it has no plans to contribute to the fund, saying in a letter to investors that the stakeholders group was trying to “extort” investment firms.

In a statement, Solus said it was working to revive the Toys “R” Us brand “in a way that we hope will provide sustainable employment for workers in the future.”

Source : https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/08/business/toys-r-us-workers-public-pensions-private-equity.html

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