Congress quietly passed legislation designed to make it harder for Trans World Airlines owner Carl Icahn to give the federal government responsibility for up to $900 million in pensions to company employees.
The measure would allow the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., or PBGC, to attach Icahn's other financial holdings - such as rail-car manufacturer ACF Industries - to cover unfunded pension liabilities as long as he controls the airline, even if he sells most of his stock in it.
"The effect . . . is to force Carl Icahn to do his best to keep TWA operating as a going concern," said Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., a prime architect of the provision that was attached to a catch-all spending bill sent to President Bush.
"The only way he can avoid immediate liability for the total amount of unfunded pensions is to keep TWA in business."
Icahn complained to lawmakers through lobbyists that the provision was "surreptitiously added" to the bill with no prior notice, hearings or debate.