Illinois Effort to Fix Ailing Local Pensions Faces Legal Hurdle

Link:https://www.bloombergquint.com/onweb/illinois-effort-to-fix-ailing-local-pensions-faces-legal-hurdle

Excerpt:

A court ruling as soon as this month will help determine the fate of one of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s key plans to ease the massive shortfall in local pension funds across the state. A 2019 law championed by Pritzker would merge about 650 local police and firefighter pensions with assets topping $16 billion into two funds to cut costs and improve returns.

….

The law set a June 30 deadline for the consolidation of the funds, but many of the local pensions are hesitating or even refusing to merge until they learn the outcome of litigation to block the combining. Three dozen current employees and retirees, along with 18 local retirement plans, filed a lawsuit in February in Illinois circuit court saying the consolidation violates the state constitution.

….

So far, however, the new Illinois Police Officers’ Pension Investment Fund hasn’t received any assets and expects to begin getting funds around March, said executive director Richard White. About 44% of the 357 downstate and suburban police funds that were supposed to be merged into the bigger pension plan haven’t even responded to requests for information, White said. 

Author(s): Shruti Singh

Publication Date: 2 Dec 2021

Publication Site: Bloomberg Quint

FTC orders Walmart, Amazon, Kroger and more to turn over information on empty shelves, high prices

Link:https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/shopping/2021/11/29/supply-chain-ftc-investigation-walmart-amazon-prices/8799724002/

Excerpt:

The Federal Trade Commission said Monday that it is investigating the causes behind ongoing supply chain disruptions and how they are “causing serious and ongoing hardships for consumers and harming competition in the U.S. economy.”

The FTC said it is ordering Walmart, Amazon, Kroger, other large wholesalers and suppliers including Procter & Gamble Co., Tyson Foods and Kraft Heinz Co. “to turn over information to help study causes of empty shelves and sky-high prices.”

Orders also are being sent to C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc., Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc. and McLane Co, Inc.

Author(s): Kelly Tyko

Publication Date: 29 Nov 2021

Publication Site: USA Today

Severity of Disease Among Adults Hospitalized with Laboratory-Confirmed COVID-19 Before and During the Period of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617.2 (Delta) Predominance — COVID-NET, 14 States, January–August 2021

Link:https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7043e1.htm?s_cid=mm7043e1_w

Graphic:

Excerpt:

What is already known about this topic?

The SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant is highly transmissible; however, whether it causes more severe disease in adults has been uncertain.

What is added by this report?

Analysis of COVID-NET data from 14 states found no significant increases in the proportion of hospitalized COVID-19 patients with severe outcomes during the Delta period. The proportion of hospitalized unvaccinated COVID-19 patients aged 18–49 years significantly increased during the Delta period.

What are the implications for public health practice?

Lower vaccination coverage in adults aged 18–49 years likely contributed to the increase in hospitalized patients during the Delta period. COVID-19 vaccination is critical for all eligible adults, including adults aged <50 years who have relatively low vaccination rates compared with older adults.

Author(s): Christopher A. Taylor, PhD1; Kadam Patel, MPH1,2; Huong Pham, MPH1; Michael Whitaker, MPH1; Onika Anglin, MPH1,2; Anita K. Kambhampati, MPH1; Jennifer Milucky, MSPH1; Shua J. Chai, MD3,4; Pam Daily Kirley, MPH4; Nisha B. Alden, MPH5; Isaac Armistead, MD5; James Meek, MPH6; Kimberly Yousey-Hindes, MPH6; Evan J. Anderson, MD7,8,9; Kyle P. Openo, DrPH7,8; Kenzie Teno, MPH10; Andy Weigel10; Maya L. Monroe, MPH11; Patricia A. Ryan, MS11; Justin Henderson, MPH12; Val Tellez Nunez, MPH12; Erica Bye, MPH13; Ruth Lynfield, MD13; Mayvilynne Poblete, MA, MPH14; Chad Smelser, MD15; Grant R. Barney, MPH16; Nancy L. Spina, MPH16; Nancy M. Bennett, MD17; Kevin Popham, MPH18; Laurie M. Billing, MPH19; Eli Shiltz, MPH19; Nasreen Abdullah, MD20; Melissa Sutton, MD20; William Schaffner, MD21; H. Keipp Talbot, MD21; Jake Ortega, MPH22; Andrea Price22; Shikha Garg, MD1; Fiona P. Havers, MD1; COVID-NET Surveillance Team

Publication Date: 29 October 2021

Publication Site: MMWR at CDC

Drug overdose deaths top 100,000 annually for the first time, driven by fentanyl, CDC data show

Link:https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/17/health/drug-overdose-deaths-record-high/index.html

Graphic:

Excerpt:

More than 100,000 people died of drug overdoses in the United States during the 12-month period ending April 2021, according to provisional data published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s a new record high, with overdose deaths jumping 28.5% from the same period a year earlier and nearly doubling over the past five years.

Opioids continue to be the driving cause of drug overdose deaths. Synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, caused nearly two-thirds (64%) of all drug overdose deaths in the 12-month period ending April 2021, up 49% from the year before, the CDC’s ‘s National Center for Health Statistics found.

Author(s): Deidre McPhillips

Publication Date: 17 Nov 2021

Publication Site: CNN

COVID-19 Vaccination and Non–COVID-19 Mortality Risk — Seven Integrated Health Care Organizations, United States, December 14, 2020–July 31, 2021

Link:https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7043e2.htm?s_cid=mm7043e2_w

Excerpt:

What is already known about this topic?

Although deaths after COVID-19 vaccination have been reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, few studies have been conducted to evaluate mortality not associated with COVID-19 among vaccinated and unvaccinated groups.

What is added by this report?

During December 2020–July 2021, COVID-19 vaccine recipients had lower rates of non–COVID-19 mortality than did unvaccinated persons after adjusting for age, sex, race and ethnicity, and study site.

What are the implications for public health practice?

There is no increased risk for mortality among COVID-19 vaccine recipients. This finding reinforces the safety profile of currently approved COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. All persons aged ≥12 years should receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Author(s): Stanley Xu, PhD1; Runxin Huang, MS1; Lina S. Sy, MPH1; Sungching C. Glenn, MS1; Denison S. Ryan, MPH1; Kerresa Morrissette, MPH1; David K. Shay, MD2; Gabriela Vazquez-Benitez, PhD3; Jason M. Glanz, PhD4; Nicola P. Klein, MD, PhD5; David McClure, PhD6; Elizabeth G. Liles, MD7; Eric S. Weintraub, MPH8; Hung-Fu Tseng, MPH, PhD1; Lei Qian, PhD1

Publication Date: 29 October 2021

Publication Site: MMWR at CDC

15 States Threaten To Pull $600 Billion From Banks That Won’t Give Equal Service To Energy Industry

Link:https://thefederalist.com/2021/11/30/15-states-threaten-to-pull-600-billion-from-banks-that-wont-give-equal-service-to-energy-industry/

Excerpt:

Fifteen state financial officers sent a letter to U.S. banks last week noting $600 billion in assets they pledge to take elsewhere if the financial institutions embrace corporate wokeism and prohibit financing to the fossil fuel industry.

Led by West Virginia Republican Treasurer Riley Moore, the group promised “collective action” in the form of an “economic boycott.”

…..

Signatories to the letter putting banks on notice include chief financial officers from Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, Alabama, Texas and Kentucky, in addition to West Virginia.

Author(s): Tristan Justice

Publication Date: 30 Nov 2021

Publication Site: The Federalist

Finance Group Fails To Deliver at COP26

Link:https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2021/11/finance-group-fails-to-deliver-at-cop26.html

Excerpt:

Not One of 60 Major Commercial Banks Has ‘Leadership Position on Decarbonizing’

Yet the trend line of bank finance for fossil fuels is rising not declining, and not a single big commercial bank has released a plan to stop financing new fossil fuels.

It’s striking that unlike any of other sectors implicated in speeding global warming, not a single one of the 60 major commercial banks has staked out a leadership position on decarbonizing.

On the other labelled days of COP, there were all kinds of interesting mash-ups of governments, private sector actors, and think tanks offering a web of creative announcements about their determination to set ambition on one thing or another. By contrast, on Private Finance Day, the one and only announcement was relating to GFANZ. Banks and investors didn’t even try to push out additional good ideas. Everyone covered themselves in the GFANZ penumbra and then went quiet.

Author(s): Michael Northrop

Publication Date: 30 Nov 2021

Publication Site: naked capitalism

A Group of Midwestern Retirees Are Trying to Stop Wall Street’s Abuse of Retirement Funds

Link:https://jacobinmag.com/2021/11/ohio-teacher-pensions-hedge-funds-private-equity-strs

Excerpt:

Due to an active group of retirees and the assistance of a former Ohio attorney general, both the Ohio state auditor and the Ohio Department of Securities have launched inquiries into the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System (STRS Ohio), a $100 billion pension that has launched billions of dollars of investments into the riskier corners of the market, namely private equity and hedge funds.

“Ohio could be the first place where the secrecy surrounding public pensions and their investments in risky, speculative, and high-fee investment vehicles could be looked at in a serious way,” said Ted Siedle, a former SEC attorney and longtime pension whistleblower.

Pointing out that pension funds across the country have routinely invoked “trade secrets” exemptions to deny the public information about investment performance and fees, Siedle said the actions taken by the state auditor and securities commissioner “could be the beginning of the end” of such secrecy — not just in Ohio, but nationwide.

Author(s): MATTHEW CUNNINGHAM-COOK

Publication Date: 30 Nov 2021

Publication Site: Jacobin magazine

Is It Time for Eurozone Banks to Start Worrying About Turkey Again?

Link:https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2021/11/is-it-time-for-european-banks-to-start-worrying-about-turkey-again.html

Excerpt:

At the height of the last big wave of Turkey’s ongoing crisis, in August 2018, the European Central Bank issued a warning about the potential impact the plummeting lira could have on Euro Area banks heavily exposed to Turkey’s economy via large amounts in loans — much of them in euros — through banks they acquired in Turkey. The central bank was worried that Turkish borrowers might not be hedged against the lira’s weakness and would begin to default on foreign currency loans, which accounted for 40% of the Turkish banking sector’s assets.

In the end, the contagion risks were largely contained. Many Turkish banks ended up agreeing to restructure the debts of their corporate clients, particularly the large ones. At the same time, the Erdogan government used state-owned lenders to bail out millions of cash-strapped consumers by restructuring their consumer loans, many of them foreign denominated, and credit card debt.  

But concerns are once again on the rise about European banks’ exposure to Turkey. On Friday, as those concerns commingled with fears about the potential threat posed by the new omicron variant of Covid-19, Europe’s worst-affected stocks included the four banks most exposed to Turkey: Spain’s BBVA, whose shares fell 7.3% on the day, Italy’s Unicredit (-6.9%), France’s BNP Paribas (-5.9%) and the Dutch ING (-7.3%).

Author(s): Nick Corbishley

Publication Date: 30 Nov 2021

Publication Site: naked capitalism

Call Your State Securities Regulator And NASAA, Demand To See Public Pension Prospectuses

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsiedle/2021/11/30/call-your-state-securities-regulator-and-nasaa-demand-to-see-public-pension-prospectuses/?sh=d277a077f881

Excerpt:

State securities regulators and NASAA have historically had very little to say about Wall Street looting of these pensions. That’s not altogether surprising given that state securities regulators almost universally serve at the whim of elected politicians—politicians who depend upon Wall Street campaign contributions. If a state securities regulator aggressively pursues Wall Street pension looting, she may be swiftly out of a job.

However, since NASAA believes “every investor deserves protection and an even break” the organization should focus upon the disturbing fact that today public pension stakeholders in all 50 states are routinely denied prospectuses and other material investment information related to their pension assets—the very same information which is widely disseminated globally to wealthy individuals. In the absence of prospectuses, public pension stakeholders cannot possibly evaluate whether pension assets are prudently invested.

…..

Recently I filed a complaint with the Ohio Department of Commerce, Division of Securities regarding the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio which has failed since February to provide prospectuses and other offering materials related to the teachers’ pension investments in response to my public records request filed on behalf of 19,000 Ohio teachers. Not a single page of a single prospectus has been released to me by STRS Ohio since February. The Division is investigating my complaint at this time.

In Rhode Island, my request for the prospectuses regarding that state’s pension investments was also denied by Treasurer Seth Magaziner last week as the pension perversely asserts, on behalf of Wall Street, that widely distributed prospectuses can somehow be “trade secrets.” I intend to file an appeal and a lawsuit challenging Magaziner’s secret pension dealings in Rhode Island.

Given that public pensions in all 50 states today refuse to provide some or all prospectuses to stakeholders, including both participants and taxpayers, publci pension secrecy is a national problem that needs to be addressed.

Author(s): Edward Siedle

Publication Date: 30 Nov 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

5 Worst Cities for COVID-19 Case Count Trends

Link:https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2021/11/30/5-worst-cities-for-covid-19-case-count-trends/

Graphic:

Excerpt:

The latest COVID-19 Community Profile Report, which is produced by public health specialists at the CDC and another federal agency, shows that the overall number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people fell to 504,056 in the week ending Nov. 28, down 21% from the total for the previous week.

But, at the metropolitan area level, week-over-week changes ranged from a drop of 100% to an increase of 12%.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 30 Nov 2021

Publication Site: Think Advisor

Massachusetts PRIM Proposes $1 Billion Investment to Boost Diversity in Managers

Link:https://www.ai-cio.com/news/massachusetts-prim-proposes-1-billion-investment-to-boost-diversity-in-managers/

Excerpt:

Massachusetts’ $95.7 billion state pension fund has preliminarily approved a plan to invest up to $1 billion in emerging-diverse managers over the next two years. The move is part of the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management (PRIM)’s initiative to abide by the state’s investment equity law, which contains a target of at least 20% diversity among PRIM’s vendor base.

“The PRIM team, by investing $1 billion into its emerging-diverse managers program, is taking important steps in addressing the inequities endemic in the financial services sector,” State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who is also the chair of PRIM’s board, said in a statement. “This is real and tangible progress that will reduce barriers and expand opportunities for diverse investment managers.”

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 1 Dec 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO