WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the oversight board established by Congress to help Puerto Rico out of a devastating financial crisis that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak, recent earthquakes and damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017. The justices reversed a lower court ruling that threatened to throw the island’s recovery efforts into chaos.
In a unanimous holding, the court will allow the oversight board’s work to pull the island out of the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history to proceed. At one point, Puerto Rico faced more than $100 billion in debt and unfunded pension obligations.
The case stemmed from a constitutional challenge to the oversight board’s composition led by hedge funds that invested in Puerto Rican bonds. A lower court ruled last year that board members were appointed in violation of the Constitution because they were not confirmed by the Senate.
The president selects the board’s seven voting members. They and one other non-voting member chosen by Puerto Rico’s governor approve budgets and fiscal plans drawn up by the island’s government. The board also handles bankruptcy-like cases that allow the island to restructure its debts.