Maryland State Retirement System Loses 3% in Fiscal Year 2022

Lik: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/maryland-state-retirement-system-loses-3-in-fiscal-year-2022/

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The Maryland State Retirement and Pension System’s investment portfolio lost 2.97%, net of fees, for the fiscal year ending June 30, but beat its policy benchmark’s loss of 3.48%. As they have been for many pension funds, the results were a sharp turnaround from last year, when the MSRPS earned record returns of 26.7%.

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Although the fund missed its new assumed actuarial rate of 6.8% for the fiscal year, which became effective July 1, the portfolio’s three-, five- and 10-year returns were 8.4%, 7.9% and 7.8%, respectively.

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 17 Aug 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

NY Common to Review Net-Zero Readiness of Oil and Gas Firms

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/ny-common-to-review-net-zero-readiness-of-oil-and-gas-firms/?oly_enc_id=2359H8978023B3G

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The New York State Common Retirement Fund is evaluating 28 publicly traded oil and gas companies to determine if they are ready to transition to a low-carbon economy, according to a release from the state comptroller’s office.

The $272.1 billion pension fund is asking each company, which includes energy giants BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Shell, to provide information on how prepared it is to transition to a net-zero economy.

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The assessment of the pension fund’s integrated oil and gas holdings is part of its broader review of energy sector investments that it believes face significant climate risk. When DiNapoli announced in late 2020 that the pension fund would transition its portfolio to net-zero by 2040, he said the process would include completing a review of energy sector investments within four years to assess transition readiness, as well as a divestment of companies that don’t meet its climate-related investment risk standards.

Less than two years into that review process, which has so far included an evaluation of shale oil and gas, oil sands and coal companies, the pension fund has decided to divest from 55 firms that it determined were not prepared to transition to a net-zero economy.

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 15 Aug 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Retirement plans’ impact on recruiting and retention in the public market

Link: https://reason.org/commentary/retirement-plans-impact-on-recruiting-and-retention-in-the-public-market/

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A number of conclusions regarding the retirement plan’s impact on recruiting and retention can be drawn from the MissionSquare survey results:  

Recruiting and retention should not be looked at as a singular issue. While public employers have seen steady success in hiring, retention has suffered greatly in recent years in the public market. 

The survey does not make the case that an employer’s retirement plan, whatever the design, has a substantial impact on recruiting or retention at all. In fact, the survey shows employers are more focused on employee morale, development, and engagement to enhance retention, along with salary increases. The survey does not suggest that there is a widespread recruiting issue although some positions, including nurses, engineers, and police officers, are more difficult to hire than others. 

Plan sponsors should avoid treating retirement plan design only as a tool for retaining employees. Rather, they should focus on a retirement plan design that realistically meets the needs of a modern workforce. The retirement plan should focus on providing lifetime income in retirement commensurate with the part of a career that an employee spends with a particular employer. The plan should recognize the realities of mobile modern employees and should not penalize employees that do not spend a full career with one employer. 

The survey illustrates that employers are focused on employee wellness as a means to improve retention. It follows that keeping employees happy should also be the focus of the retirement plan. Retention is best addressed by having a retirement plan that addresses the realities of the workforce today, as noted above.  

Author(s): Richard Hiller

Publication Date: 9 Aug 2022

Publication Site: Reason

PW special report: NC treasurer’s love for cash in the pension fund hobbled returns during the stock market boom

Link: https://ncpolicywatch.com/2022/08/05/pw-special-report-nc-treasurers-love-for-cash-in-the-pension-fund-hobbled-returns-during-the-stock-market-boom/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=8dfd910d-e76e-4e65-91ce-d144637d3017&eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=18903da7-2756-43a1-92ce-b1403da31f40

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* The pension fund holds much more of its money in cash than other comparable state pension funds and more than its allocation policy suggests. State Treasurer Dale Folwell routinely overrides the policy to prevent “rebalancing.”
* Folwell emphasizes steeling the pension plan against stock market downturns. That’s led to the plan missing out on the big stock market gains of the last few years. Returns for the state pension fund are far lower than comparable public pension funds.
* Folwell repeatedly liquidated stock to shift money to bonds and cash.
*He has lowered the pension fund’s assumed rate of return in stages, which means the state and local governments have had to increase their contributions.

Author(s): Lynn Bonner

Publication Date: 5 August 2022

Publication Site: NC Policy Watch

NY State Pension Returns 9.5% in FY 2022, While NYC Pensions Lose 8.65%

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/ny-state-pension-returns-9-5-in-fy-2022-while-nyc-pensions-lose-8-65/

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The New York State Common Retirement Fund has reported a 9.51% investment return for fiscal year 2022, while the New York City Retirement System reported an annual preliminary loss of 8.65% among its five pension funds.

However, the fiscal year for the state’s pension ended March 31, while the city’s pension funds ended their fiscal year June 30, after a quarter during which global markets tumbled and the S&P 500 fell by more than 16%.

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The portfolio’s alternative investments buoyed the pension fund’s returns, which raised the portfolio’s asset value to $272.1 billion as of March 31. Private equity returned 37.57% for the year, while the fund’s real estate investments and real assets returned 27.4% and 16.12% respectively. The three asset classes account for nearly 24% of the portfolio’s total asset allocation. The pension fund recently reported that it had committed more than $3 billion in alternative investments during June alone.

The NYCRF had an asset allocation of 49.70% in publicly traded equities, 21.18% in cash, bonds and mortgages, 13.64% in private equity, 10.00% in real estate and real assets and 5.48% in credit, absolute return strategies and opportunistic alternatives. The fund’s long-term expected rate of return is 5.9%.

Author(s): Amy Resnick

Publication Date:

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Average Public Pension Assumed Rate of Return Hits 40-Year Low

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/average-public-pension-assumed-rate-of-return-hits-40-year-low/

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The average investment return rate assumption for U.S. public pension funds has fallen below 7.0%, to its lowest level in more than 40 years, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators.

Among the 131 funds that NASRA measured, more than half have reduced their investment return assumption since fiscal year 2020 as rising interest rates and other factors have contributed to more volatile investment returns. 

For the 30‐year period that ended in 2020, public pension funds accrued approximately $8.5 trillion in revenue, according to NASRA, of which $5.1 trillion, or 60%, came from investment earnings. Employer contributions accounted for $2.4 trillion, or 28%, and employee contributions totaled $1 trillion, or 12%. 

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 1 Aug 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Governor Moves to Bar Florida SBA From ESG Investing

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/governor-moves-to-bar-florida-sba-from-esg-investing/

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The latest anti-ESG onslaught from Republican state officials is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ campaign to forbid the Florida State Board of Administration from adopting environmental, social and governance investing tenets. At the moment, SBA doesn’t appear to be a devotee of ESG.

The governor, an outspoken conservative, plans to propose at an SBA meeting on August 15 that the body’s fiduciary duties must exclude ESG. “From Wall Street banks to massive asset managers and big tech companies, we have seen the corporate elite use their economic power to impose policies on the country that they could not achieve at the ballot box,” DeSantis said in a statement.

DeSantis, a possible GOP presidential contender in 2024, declared that “we are protecting Floridians from woke capital and asserting the authority of our constitutional system over ideological corporate power.” He also plans to push through legislation banning the SBA from making ESG-themed investments and requiring them to focus on maximizing returns.

Author(s): Larry Light

Publication Date: 5 Aug 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

7 Democratic Senators Just Did Their Wall Street Donors a Huge Favor

Link: https://jacobin.com/2022/08/democratic-senators-wall-street-donors-private-equity

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In the name of preserving carefully negotiated legislation, Senate Democrats’ leaders united their caucus to vote down amendments that would have added the party’s Medicare expansion plan and expanded child tax credit into the final spending bill now moving through Congress.

That unity, though, was not universally enforced: soon after those votes, seven Democratic senators joined with Republicans to cast a pivotal vote shielding their private equity donors from a new corporate minimum tax.

The seven Democrats who joined the GOP to give private equity firms that $35 billion gift were: Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly of Arizona, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia, Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.

Five of the seven Democrats are among the Senate’s top recipients of campaign donations from private equity donors, according to data from OpenSecrets. The group collectively raked in more than $1.4 million of campaign cash from the private equity industry, which has become a huge source of capital for the fossil fuel conglomerates that are creating the climate crisis.

The contrast between voting to protect private equity donors and voting against programs for the working class effectively screamed the quiet part out loud about whom senators typically respond to — and whom they don’t.

In this case, Democratic and Republican senators responded to the demands of an industry that has not only spent more than a quarter billion dollars on the last two federal elections, but that also employs an army of government-officials-turned-lobbyists to influence lawmakers in Washington. The world’s largest private equity firm is headed by one of the Republican Party’s largest donors, and now employs the son-in-law of Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer as a lobbyist.

That influence machine is fueled by $6.3 trillion industry’s profits, generated by collecting massive fees off investments by public pensions and other institutional investors. Those fees have ballooned even when the industry often provides poorer returns than the stock market. Cloaked in secrecy, the industry invests in Medicare and health care privatization, as well as virulently anti-union and fossil fuel companies.

Author(s): David Sirota

Publication Date: 10 Aug 2022

Publication Site: Jacobin

Wrong Way CalPERS Increased Private Equity Allocation by Over 50% as Investors Are Dumping Holdings

Link: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2022/08/wrong-way-calpers-increased-private-equity-allocation-by-over-50-as-investors-are-dumping-holdings.html

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CalPERS is so reliably bad at market timing that the giant fund serves as a counter indicators. Last fall, CalPERS increased its allocation to private equity from 8% of its total portfolio to 13%, which is an increase of over 50%. This is after this humble blog, regularly citing top independent experts, pointed out that the investment raison d’etre for private equity had vanished in the 2006-2008 time frame, not once, but many many times as various studies kept confirming that finding. Not only did private equity no longer earn enough to compensate for its much higher risks (leverage and illiquidity) but it was no longer beating straight up large cap equities.

Now there is a way out of this conundrum: to bring private equity in house. Private equity fees and costs are so egregious (an estimated 7% per annum) that even a bit of underperformance relative to private equity indexes will be more than offset by greatly lower fees. A simpler option would be public market replication of private equity.

But the dogged way funds like CalPERS stick to private equity points to rank corruption, of the sort that landed CalPERS former CEO Fred Buenrostro in Federal prison for four and a half years.

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Another problem is cash flow management. Private equity funds do not take investor money at closing. Instead, investors get “capital calls” to pony up part of their commitment to the fund so the fund manager can buy a company. These capital calls require the dough to be sent as specified in the offering memorandum, usually in five to ten days. The consequences of missing a capital call are draconian. The fund manager can seize all the investments made so far and distribute them to the other limited partners.

In the financial crisis, CalPERS had too little cash on hand to meet private equity capital calls. It wound up dumping stocks at distressed prices to satisfy the private equity demands. So the risk outlined below is real.

Author(s): Yves Smith

Publication Date: 9 Aug 2022

Publication Site: naked capitalism

Citizens must be accurately informed for government to work

Link: https://www.news-gazette.com/opinion/columns/sheila-weinberg-citizens-must-be-accurately-informed-for-government-to-work/article_5d93e9cf-73c5-54c9-b762-133f91a94824.html

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An example of questionable disclosure practices is found in the Illinois budgeting and financial reporting process, specifically regarding pension contributions. In 1994, then-Gov. Jim Edgar led an effort to pass a bipartisan bill to solve the state’s $15 billion pension deficit. The plan would resolve the deficit within 50 years. The plan was structured to pay down the debt very slowly in the first 15 years and accelerate at the end. This ensured that sitting politicians in the early days of the plan would not be required to make the necessary tax increases or budget cuts to pay down the debt in a meaningful way.

This program is shown in charts to look like a skateboard ramp, appropriately named the “Edgar Ramp.” The problem is, the plan doesn’t work.

It is so unsuccessful that the Illinois pension deficit has grown from $15 billion to $317 billion as of June 30, 2020, according to Moody’s Investors Service. The state’s latest bond offering document emphasizes, “The state’s contributions to the retirement systems, while in conformity with state law, have been less than the contributions necessary to fully fund the retirement systems as calculated by the actuaries of the retirement systems.”

The latest Illinois Annual Comprehensive Financial Report discloses cash-flow problems, significantly underfunded pension obligations, other post-retirement benefit deficits and multiple references to debt-obligation bonds.

Author(s): Shiela Weinberg

Publication Date: 7 Aug 2022

Publication Site: News Gazette

The Government Pension Reckoning Cometh

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-government-pension-reckoning-cometh-equable-institute-report-11660084312?st=j8a7o7efyyvjtdp&reflink=article_email_share&utm_source=Wirepoints+Newsletter&utm_campaign=24f39fc2e0-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_895ee9abf9-24f39fc2e0-30506353#new_tab

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The California Public Employees’ Retirement System reported a negative 6.1% return for the year, which includes a 21.3% positive return on private equity and 24.1% return on real estate as reported through the second quarter of 2022. What will happen if real-estate prices start to fall and some leveraged private-equity buyouts go south amid rising interest rates?

Collective-bargaining agreements limit how much workers must contribute to their pensions, so taxpayers are required to make up for investment losses. Employer retirement contributions—that is, taxpayers—make up 20% of government worker compensation. That amount has soared over the past decade as pension funds tried to make up for losses during the 2008-2009 financial panic.

A recent report by the Equable Institute found that state and local pension plans now are only 77.9% funded on average, which is about the same as in 2008. But some like Chicago’s are less than 40%. Advice to taxpayers in Illinois: Run.

Author(s): WSJ Editorial Board

Publication Date: 9 Aug 2022

Publication Site: WSJ