UPDATE 1-Stockton bankruptcy judge says city's collateral not worthless

Tue Jul 8, 2014 7:12pm EDT

(Adds details on ruling, background on case, byline)

By Robin Respaut

SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 8 (Reuters) - The judge in Stockton, California's bankruptcy on Tuesday ruled that the city has collateral worth $4.052 million with which it could pay holdout creditor Franklin Templeton, dismissing the city's contention its collateral was worthless.

At the same time, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein said he would make no ruling on Tuesday on whether the California Public Employees' Retirement System, or Calpers, should be made to accept less than the entire amount it is owed while bondholders take losses in the case.

Klein's ruling on the collateral in the case of Stockton, which filed for bankruptcy in June 2012, followed a trial that concluded last month and centered around Franklin's objection to the city proposing to repay it less than a penny on the dollar for a debt of about $36 million.

The city's collateral against bonds held by Franklin includes two golf courses, a community center and a park, which the city had estimated had no value while Franklin had pegged their value at $6.12 million to $17.34 million.

"Of course one of the problems with appraisals is everyone comes in with an appraisal that supports their position," Klein said from the bench on Tuesday. "Judges have long figured out that they need to be skeptical with their opinions."

Meanwhile, Klein said he wanted "share some of my pain thinking through the Calpers problem," but said he would not rule on the matter on Tuesday.

The question of how Calpers, the largest U.S. pension fund, should be treated is of keen interest for investors and bond issuers in the $3.7 trillion U.S. municipal bond market.

The treatment of pension systems has been uneven in the handful of recent municipal bankruptcy cases.

In the case of Detroit, the largest-ever Chapter 9 insolvency case that will go to trial later this summer, the city has proposed that city pension funds share some of the loss.

But in Vallejo, California, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2011, Calpers was left whole. (Reporting by Robin Respaut; Writing by Dan Burns; editing by Andrew Hay)

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