Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, in her fight for workers' rights, has set her sights on a new billionaire businessman: former Sears CEO Eddie Lampert.
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Warren sent a letter to Lampert on Wednesday questioning his $5.2 billion bid to rescue the bankrupt retailer, citing concerns about his “commitment to Sears employees, given his history of slashing jobs at the company.”
“Under his management, thousands of stores have closed, and more than 200,000 workers have lost their jobs,” the senator said in a press release. “Lampert is also being sued for mismanagement of employee retirement funds, resulting in a $1.4 billion shortfall in the company's pension fund, a deficit that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the government agency responsible for insuring pension plans, will likely be forced to cover.”
Over the weekend, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation filed documents with U.S. Bankruptcy Court protesting Lampert’s bid, saying it doesn’t account for that very large funding gap for pension plans, which has existed for years. Creditors have also requested permission to sue Lampert for allegedly stripping Sears of its best assets and contributing to its demise.
Warren said Lampert’s “conflicts of interest … have short-changed Sears’ workers” and left the retailer “on its last legs.”
Sears has decreased store count by about 70 percent since January 2017. The once-iconic retailer has not posted a profit since 2012.
A spokesperson for Lampert's hedge fund, ESL Investments, which submitted the bid, did not immediately return FOX Business’ request for comment.
Sears confirmed earlier this month it had accepted a deal – which still needs to be approved in bankruptcy court – for more than $5 billion to keep more than 400 stores open, preventing potential liquidation proceedings. The deal would allow about 45,000 Sears employees to keep their jobs.
Warren, who has positioned herself as a proponent of the working and middle classes, is no stranger to calling out wealthy business leaders – she has, for example, repeatedly called for the removal of Wells Fargo’s Tim Sloan in the aftermath of a widespread fake account scandal.
As she explores a potential 2020 bid, Warren recently unveiled a proposal for what she calls an “ultra-millionaire tax.” The wealth tax would apply to those with more than $50 million in assets. The tax would be equal to 2 percent, but would rise to 3 percent for those who have assets valued at more than $1 billion.
Warren announced in December she was forming an exploratory committee ahead of a possible presidential bid in 2020.