Illinois State Senator Robert Martwick (D-Chicago) is pushing ahead with legislation that, according to a Bloomberg report, could increase Chicago’s police pension obligations by another $3 billion in total through 2055. An earlier city estimate put the cost at $2.1 billion. Senate Bill 2105 would do that by removing a birthdate restriction on eligibility at age 55 for a 3% automatic annual increase in retirement annuity.
Where would Chicago get money to cover the additional liability? No answers.
Chicago’s police and firefighter pensions already are in utterly abysmal shape, having just 18% and 23%, respectively, of the assets their actuaries say they should have. Together with two other pensions sponsored by the city, Chicago officially reports about $33 billion of unfunded pension liabilities. But using more realistic assumptions, Moody’s estimates the total unfunded liability at $60 billion. Moody’s also reports the city of Chicago’s total debts as a percentage of annual revenues are at 735%, the highest of any major city in the country.
It’s as if Martwick is saying, “We rob banks routinely so you might as well make it legal for us to rob banks.”
Both Chicago Police and Chicago Fire plans have active-to-beneficiary ratios of about 90%, and have been at that level for some years. Chicago Police, specifically, had such a ratio starting in 2012.
So, there are more people taking police pensions than are active employees already. If I take the numbers given, and shift 38% from active to beneficiaries, that gives one an active-to-beneficiary ratio of 52% (assuming you don’t get new actives, which you would, but still… this is a point-in-time estimate).
An investigation of the Chicago Policemen Annuity and Benefit Fund was funded by members of the Chicago Police Department Pension Board Accountability Group. According to the report, the CPABF is one of the worst funded public pension plans in the U.S. today with a funding ratio at year-end of only 23%. According to the report, “The toxic mix of defunding the police pension, conflicted and high-risk investments, and poor management of the pension cry out for greater transparency and accountability.”
As Arthur Levitt, Chairman of the SEC stated back in 1999 in connection with the Commission’s review of pay-to-play practices at public pensions, “Today, public funds hold more than $2 trillion of assets. These assets do not belong to the elected officials, and they do not belong to the trustees. They belong to the tens of thousands of firefighters, ambulance drivers, city clerks, bus drivers and other public employees who make our communities work. “Their interests,” as my father said twenty years ago, “must be paramount in investment of that money.”
The tremendous importance of public funds demands that they be managed with complete honesty and integrity and for the sole benefit of their beneficiaries.”
According to a lawsuit filed this week by Tobe, the pension denied most of his requests for records under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. It’s no secret that state and local government pensions—which are supposed to be the most transparent of all pensions—are regularly criticized for opposing public record requests, particularly related to alternative investment documents.
The report accuses the pension of failing to monitor and fully disclose investment fees and expenses. It is estimated that fees and expenses could be 10 times greater than the $7.4 million disclosed in the pension’s most recent financial audit. Tobe believes the fees related to dozens of investment managers are not properly disclosed. Using assumptions from an Oxford study, Tobe estimated that undisclosed fees could be as high as $70 million a year. Also, $2 million to $3 million a year in investment fees may have been paid to Wall Street for doing nothing, i.e., fees on committed, uninvested capital.
In a September 2, 2021 statement on the police pension’s website it was stated:
“Recently, certain annuitants, without asserting any wrongdoing on the part of the Fund, any Fund employee, or any Board Trustee, past or current, and in fact repeatedly acknowledging no wrongdoing or fraudulent conduct has occurred, have demanded the Board contract with another entity to conduct a desired independent forensic audit. The purpose of a forensic audit is in substance to conduct an investigation as a means of discovering potential fraud, wrongdoing, or other financial crimes. Given that no legitimate cause for this type of audit exists, it is not a prudent use of Fund resources to engage with an additional auditor to perform a forensic audit.”
According to the report, CPABF is one of the worst funded public pension plans in the U.S. today with a funding ratio at year-end of only 23%. That fact alone merits an independent investigation, in my opinion. And, by the way, forensic investigations of pensions are not necessarily focused upon “potential fraud, wrongdoing or financial crimes.”
The Chicago Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund (PABF) – commonly referred to as the “Chicago Police Pension Fund” is one of the worst funded public pension plans in the U.S. today and in U.S. history. Its funding ratio as of today is only 23%.
It is also so damaged by a total lack of transparency that it puts the interest of Wall Street & Chicago Investment Managers over its own current and retired officers. PABF has hidden $10s of millions in investment fees, while denying payment for a disabled officer’s wheelchair.
Retired Chicago Police Officer Rosemarie Giambalvo initiated the call for a complete forensic audit of the Chicago Police Pension fund in February 2020 seeking full transparency and accountability. Rosemarie also founded the CPD Pension Board Accountability Group consisting of over 2600 retired, widows, and active officers who signed two petitions calling for the audit. Rosemarie was told during the February 2020 Pension Board meeting that, “whoever wants an audit must pay for it?” One trustee then stated, “it would cost $20,000”. Rosemarie notified the group members and within two weeks raised the full $20,000 from the group to pay for the audit costing the pension board nothing. Justin Kugler stated, “he didn’t care how much money they raised, we will not consent to a forensic audit!” After the elected trustees refused to address the concerns of their underfunded pensions (22% in 2020), the group agreed to hire myself Christopher Tobe, a Forensic Investigator to which I began the forensic audit report upon being hired by Rosemarie Giambalvo and the group.
The board and staff of the Chicago Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund (PABF) have gone out of their way to conceal and block information for this report. They illegally denied most of our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests only providing small amounts of information which should have been previously disclosed on the web page.
Regardless, we have come up with a report that can have an impact by providing more transparency and accountability for the operations of the fund.