Businessman to Pay $4 Million to Detroit Pension Funds

Over failed airline investments


An Alabama businessman has agreed to pay $4 million to Detroit's two embattled pension funds to settle a 5-year-old lawsuit involving a failed $30-million airline investment – and more pay-to-play schemes linked to ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

The businessman, Donald Watkins, had claimed that some pension trustees shook him down for donations to Kilpatrick's legal defense fund, free flights on his jet and campaign contributions, but that he refused to participate.

But the pension funds – one for the police and fire departments, another for general city workers – claimed that Watkins did them wrong and cost them millions. In 2008, the two funds sued Watkins over the demise of his air cargo company, TradeWinds Airlines. Watkins had persuaded the funds in 2007 to invest $30 million in TradeWinds Airlines, but the company declared bankruptcy after receiving the pension funds' money.