Federal prosecutors have been investigating D.C.’s pension board, responsible for $10 billion retirement fund

Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/01/23/dc-pension-fund-investigation/

Excerpt:

Federal prosecutors have been investigating the financial transactions of the D.C. Retirement Board, which manages the city’s $10 billion pension fund for retired teachers, police officers and firefighters.

The fully funded municipal employee pension plan has long been the jewel in D.C.’s financial crown, the envy of other cities and a signal of the trustworthiness of the District’s finances to the credit rating agencies that issue municipal bond ratings.

….

The existence of the investigation was disclosed in a whistleblower lawsuit filed in December against the D.C. Retirement Board by Erie Sampson, the agency’s general counsel since 2008.

Sampson alleges that she was placed on administrative leave in October in retaliation for alerting officials at the retirement board and in D.C. government, including the city’s chief financial officer and members of the D.C. Council, about problems in the retirement board’s accounting and governance — as well as for cooperating with the federal investigation.

A spokesperson for the retirement board declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

Author(s): Julie Zauzmer Weil

Publication Date: 23 Jan 2022

Publication Site: Washington Post

Tokyo’s ‘oldest man’ had been dead for 30 years

Link:https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-10809128

Excerpt:

He was thought to be the oldest man in Tokyo – but when officials went to congratulate Sogen Kato on his 111th birthday, they uncovered mummified skeletal remains lying in his bed.

Mr Kato may have been dead for 30 years according to Japanese authorities.

They grew suspicious when they went to honour Mr Kato at his address in Adachi ward, but his granddaughter told them he “doesn’t want to see anybody”.

Police are now investigating the family on possible fraud charges.

…..

But the family had received 9.5 million yen ($109,000: £70,000) in widower’s pension payments via Mr Kato’s bank account since his wife died six years ago, and some of the money had recently been withdrawn.

Publication Date: 29 July 2010

Publication Site: BBC

Gardaí investigating after man’s body used in apparent attempt to claim pension

Link:https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/garda%C3%AD-investigating-after-man-s-body-used-in-apparent-attempt-to-claim-pension-1.4782598

Graphic:

Excerpt:

Gardaí are investigating the death of a man in Carlow town, whose body was brought into a post office by two others in what appeared to be an attempt to claim the deceased’s pension.

The bizarre series of events began when a man entered the post office at Hosey’s shop on Staplestown Road at about 11.30 am on Friday.

The man wanted to collect a pension payment on behalf of an older man but was informed by a staff member that the pensioner would have to be present if a payment was to be made.

The man left the post office and returned a short time later with two other men, one of whom was in his 60s. The two younger men are understood to have sought a pension payment for the third man, who it appeared was being propped up.

….

The deceased man, named locally as Peadar Doyle, is believed to have been in his late 60s and a resident of Pollerton Road, close to the post office.

Author(s): Jack Power, Ronan McGreevy

Publication Date: 21 Jan 2022

Publication Site: The Irish Times

Two men take corpse into Irish post office to claim dead man’s pension

Link:https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jan/22/two-men-take-corpse-into-irish-post-office-to-claim-dead-mans-pension

Excerpt:

Gardaí have launched an investigation after two men carried a dead body into an Irish post office in an apparent attempt to claim his pension.

The deceased pensioner was described in reports as being “propped up” by the men as they walked into the building in County Carlow on Friday morning.

The outlandish series of events began when one of the men entered the post office at about 11.30am on Friday, asking to collect a pension payment for an older man, the Irish Times reported. He was refused, with staff informing him that the pensioner would have to be present in order for the money to be handed over.

Author(s): Clea Skopeliti

Publication Date: 22 Jan 2022

Publication Site: The Guardian

Pennsylvania lawmakers mull pension reforms as PSERS remains under scrutiny

Link: https://www.timesleader.com/wire/state-wire/1535867/pennsylvania-lawmakers-mull-pension-reforms-as-psers-remains-under-scrutiny

Excerpt:

State lawmakers met with officials of Pennsylvania’s public pension funds Thursday to vet reform measures that have been introduced to increase transparency and oversight of the pension system.

The measures are working their way through the legislative process and could be considered for passage this year. Thursday’s hearing offered participants a chance to voice concerns or probe for costs and conflicts that could derail the measures.

….

Among the proposals reviewed by pension officials and legislators was a bill that would force the funds to more closely track more than $1 billion of annual investment manager fees, and profit-sharing and other money-management costs. The measure would also require video copies of hours-long board meetings to be made publicly available — online for three years, and then by request.

Author(s): Joseph N. DiStefano

Publication Date: 21 Jan 2022

Publication Site: Times Leader

Board members of Pa.’s largest pension fund asked to sign secrecy oaths

Link: https://www.witf.org/2022/01/21/board-members-of-pa-s-largest-pension-fund-asked-to-sign-secrecy-oaths/

Excerpt:

Leaders of Pennsylvania’s beleaguered teachers’ pension fund are requesting that board members sign oaths of secrecy before receiving a critical update on the botched investment calculation scandal that has led to multiple federal investigations.

On Thursday morning, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System board told members in an email that they must sign a yet-to-be-drafted non-disclosure agreement to participate in a closed-door meeting later this month.

The meeting, scheduled for Jan. 31, is pivotal: Board members are poised to be presented with the findings of a taxpayer-funded inquiry into an investment calculation mistake in late 2020 that wrongly spared teachers a potential hike in their pension payments, leaving taxpayers to make up the difference over time. The calculation was later fixed, and teacher payments increased.

The inquiry was conducted by Womble Bond Dickinson, a law firm hired by the board last year to conduct an internal investigation into the error as PSERS coped with the federal probes. The system has agreed to pay Womble up to $367,600 in fees for its work, with partners collecting up to $695 an hour.

Author(s): Angela Couloumbis of Spotlight PA and Joseph N. DiStefano of The Inquirer

Publication Date: 21 Jan 2022

Publication Site: WITF

NAIC launches review of private equity-owned insurer issues

Link:https://www.dlapiper.com/en/us/insights/publications/2021/12/naic-launches-review-of-private-equity-owned-insurer-issues/

Excerpt:

On December 7, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Financial Stability Task Force voted in a virtual meeting to expose, for a 30-day comment period, a list of “Regulatory Considerations Applicable (But Not Exclusive) to Private Equity (PE) Owned Insurers.” The Task Force assigned to its Macroprudential Working Group the role of coordinator of the ongoing evaluation of these considerations.

The decision is the latest public expression of increasing concern among regulators about the recent growth in number and complexity of private equity-owned insurers.

The current exposure has some antecedents in NAIC-directed efforts that began two years ago.  In November 2019, the Statutory Accounting Working Group began an effort to change the Statement of Statutory Accounting Principles (SSAP) No. 25, which provides accounting rules on insurer transactions with related parties and affiliates.

Author(s): Scott Fischer

Publication Date: 9 Dec 2021

Publication Site: DLA Piper

The catastrophe of the Covid models

Link:https://www.spiked-online.com/2022/01/21/the-catastrophe-of-the-covid-models/

Graphic:

Excerpt:

Having taken all the modelling into account, SAGE produced a table that showed in stark terms what the future held if the government stuck to ‘Plan B’. With the usual risible caveat that ‘these are not forecasts or predictions’, they showed a peak in hospitalisations of between 3,000 and 10,000 per day and a peak in deaths of between 600 and 6,000 a day. In previous waves, without any vaccines, deaths had never exceeded 1,250 a day.

The government was effectively given an ultimatum. SAGE offered Johnson a choice between the disaster that would surely unfold and a ‘Step 1’ or ‘Step 2’ lockdown, both of which had been helpfully modelled to give him a steer. ‘Step 1’ was a full lockdown as implemented last January. ‘Step 2’ allowed limited contact with other households but only outdoors.

In the event, as we all know, Boris Johnson ignored the warnings and declined to implement any new restrictions on liberty. A few days later, Robert West, a nicotine-addiction specialist who is on SAGE for some reason, tweeted: ‘It is now a near certainty that the UK will be seeing a hospitalisation rate that massively exceeds the capacity of the NHS. Many thousands of people have been condemned to death by the Conservative government.’

It did not quite turn out that way. Covid-related hospitalisations in England peaked at 2,370 on 29 December and it looks like the number of deaths will peak well below 300. This is not just less than was projected under ‘Plan B’, it is less than was projected under a ‘Step 2’ lockdown. The modelling for ‘Step 2’ showed a peak of at least 3,000 hospitalisations and 500 deaths a day. SAGE had given itself an enormous margin of error. There is an order of magnitude between 600 deaths a day and 6,000 deaths a day and yet it still managed to miss the mark.

Author(s): Christopher Snowdon

Publication Date: 22 Jan 2022

Publication Site: Spiked Online

A Politicized Fed Endangers the Economy

Link:https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-politicized-fed-endangers-economy-monetary-federal-reserve-powell-balance-sheet-climate-stress-test-social-justice-11642448983

Excerpt:

It is time to depoliticize monetary policy. First, instead of making the Fed’s mandate broader, Congress should consider narrowing it to one of price stability. The Fed’s contribution to achieving full employment should be through focusing on long-term price stability. Next, as we learn to live with Covid and as the economy continues to recover, the Fed must go beyond merely tapering its bond purchases. It must set out a credible process and timetable to unwind its balance sheet.

Should the Fed be called on again to exercise emergency powers, Congress must ensure those powers are of limited duration and that any credit facilities created are quickly transferred to the Treasury Department. Finally, the more improvisational and discretionary the Fed’s conduct of monetary policy, the more difficult it is to withstand political pressures. The Fed should move to a monetary-policy framework that is more systematic, predictable and transparent.

If politicized monetary policy doesn’t prove transitory, it is doubtful the Fed will be able to deliver either stable prices or maximum employment.

Author(s): Jeb Hensarling

Publication Date: 17 Jan 2021

Publication Site: WSJ

New York Is Trying To Punish Its Way to 100% Vaccine Compliance

Link: https://reason.com/2021/12/15/new-york-is-trying-to-punish-its-way-to-100-vaccine-compliance/?utm_medium=email

Excerpt:

Beginning Monday, at the order of Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul, every business in the state was required by law to have every employee and customer show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, or make everyone inside their doors over the age of 2 wear a mask.

Violators face fines of up to $1,000. Enforcement is being left to county governments, of which an estimated one-quarter—almost all run by Republicans—have indicated they will not participate in.

….

The two-shot vaccination rate for New Yorkers ages 12 and older currently stands at 81 percent. Six months ago, when Hochul’s predecessor Andrew Cuomo lifted almost all statewide COVID restrictions, he did so because the Empire State had crossed the 70 percent threshold set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—not for full vaccination of everyone over age 12, mind you, but for single shots among adults.

….

Contra Hochul, it is far from clear that even 100 percent vaccination would have prevented a third consecutive winter surge across the northeast, which currently has the highest rates of vaccination and coronavirus cases in the United States.

Author(s): Matt Welch

Publication Date: 15 Dec 2021

Publication Site: Reason

Joe Biden’s multiemployer pension plan rescue is turning into a political disaster

Link: https://www.ft.com/content/2af3b859-3791-4c2e-bbdc-93d23dc4c6a3

Excerpt:

Union-friendly members of Congress and senators, in particular Sherrod Brown of Ohio, pushed the team of President Joe Biden to incorporate a relief plan for federally guaranteed pension plans that would provide (forgivable) 30-year federal loan along with other support.

The cost of the bailout was estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to be about $86bn, of which $82bn would be spent in 2022. If everything worked out, that would have been a good talking point for Democratic candidates during the midterm elections next year, especially in the hotly contested rust-belt states.

But rather than specify the actuarial details of how the rescue would work, the congressional sponsors and the administration left this job to the experts at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a US government agency. They may regret that decision.

…..

Even before then, the unions and employers who act as trustees for the multiemployer funds are probably facing legal troubles if they accept bailout money. As the committee went on to point out: “Trustees of such [troubled] plans who decide to take SFA face the risk of litigation from active employees, while those trustees who elect not to seek SFA risk being sued by retirees.”

Author(s): John Dizard

Publication Date: 20 Dec 2021

Publication Site: Financial Times