Amid the chaos and conflict of American Airlines' bankruptcy negotations, an unlikely hero has emerged – one who's ended up effectively holding the airline to its obligations, rather than dumping them on taxpayers.

A recent Wall Street Journal article shines the spotlight on Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation director Josh Gotbaum and his efforts to keep his somewhat obscure (at least to the outside world) agency from shouldering the burden as American attempted to dump its pension plans as a cost-saving move.

All totaled, American's pension obligations would have saddled the PBGC with an unwieldy $9 billion, a cost that would have raised the organization's deficit by a third.

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