As Comptroller, Lander Would Use ‘Environmental, Social and Governance’ Factors to Inform Pension Investment

Link: https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10773-comptroller-lander-environmental-social-governance-esg-pension-investment?mc_cid=234d7207fb&mc_eid=1a5d3a1f3d

Excerpt:

The New York City Comptroller is an investment advisor and fiduciary for New York City’s $266 billion public pension system that serves 700,000 current and former teachers, firefighters, health care workers, police officers, and other retired city employees.

Brad Lander, the Democratic nominee for Comptroller, is all but certain to win the general election this fall in the overwhelmingly Democratic city after prevailing in a competitive primary earlier this year. If successful, Lander would be inaugurated in January and soon be able to make recommendations to the Boards of Trustees of the city’s five public pension funds on how their many billions should be invested, while also voting directly on four of the five pension boards, making him the key figure in almost all investment decisions.

The implications are significant given that city workers’ pensions are on the line, and because the city guarantees those pensions, billions are spent each year to make up for what the pensions themselves don’t produce in returns. Better returns from pension fund investments can save city government a significant amount of money that could be used for other priorities or put aside for a crisis.

Those investment decisions can also be made to further other goals than simply the funds’ bottom lines, though the returns and overall financial health of the pension funds are the comptroller’s main city charter-mandated responsibility.

Author(s): Carmen Vintro

Publication Date: 17 Sept 2021

Publication Site: Gotham Gazette

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear University Pension Case

Link: https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2021/07/06/us-supreme-court-hear-university-pension-case

Excerpt:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to consider the appeal of Northwestern University employees who say the university mismanaged their 403(b) pension investments. The lawsuit against Northwestern was one of roughly 20 filed in 2016 charging that wealthy and prestigious universities failed to fulfill their fiduciary duty by charging unreasonable fees and offering too many investment options.

Lower federal courts sided with Northwestern in dismissing the employees’ claims, but in their appeal to the Supreme Court, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that the federal appeals courts had issued divided rulings on key questions in similar lawsuits.

Author(s): Doug Lederman

Publication Date: 6 July 2021

Publication Site: Inside Higher Ed

GOP senators press TSP managers on fiduciary duty vs. ESG

Link: https://www.pionline.com/washington/gop-senators-press-tsp-managers-fiduciary-duty-vs-esg?utm_source=p-i-editor-s-pick&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20210702&utm_content=article3-headline&CSAuthResp=1625616942174%3A0%3A73393%3A0%3A24%3Asuccess%3AFEA86842B20E7441526766BAA1004F10#cci_r=

Excerpt:

Two Republican senators expressed concern that Thrift Savings Plan asset managers BlackRock and State Street Global Advisors are putting ESG and their CEOs’ “left-leaning” priorities ahead of their fiduciary duties when it comes to proxy voting.

In a letter Thursday to Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board Acting Chairman David A. Jones, Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin questioned the priorities of BlackRock and State Street Global Advisors, who between them manage nearly $500 billion for the $762.3 billion Thrift Savings Plan’s 6.2 million federal employees and members of the uniformed services. Of that, roughly $57 billion is managed by SSGA.

“We are concerned that BlackRock and SSGA may be prioritizing their CEOs’ personal policy views over retirees’ financial security,” the letter said.

Author(s): Hazel Bradford

Publication Date: 1 July 2021

Publication Site: Pensions & Investments

About That Pension Check… A Miscalculation Case With Broader Implications

Link: https://www.natlawreview.com/article/about-pension-check-miscalculation-case-broader-implications

Excerpt:

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently addressed several issues of first impression in Bafford v. Northrop Grumman (9th Cir. April 15, 2021), a lawsuit involving retirees who received vastly overstated pension benefit estimates from the plan’s recordkeeper reminds employers of the importance of careful administration.   The case highlights the need to ensure that electronic recordkeeping systems and tools align with the plan terms.  Participant requests for plan or benefit information using online portals or other electronic means still demand timely and accurate responses as required by ERISA’s disclosure requirements.

…..

On appeal from the district court, the Ninth Circuit agreed that the participants’ ERISA fiduciary claims should have been dismissed, aligning with the First and the Fourth Circuit’s view that a named fiduciary is only liable for a fiduciary breach if they are performing a fiduciary function.  The court said that calculating pension benefits using a pre-set formula is a ministerial function, not a fiduciary function.  So a miscalculation error would not create a breach of fiduciary duty claim.

Author(s): Craig A. Day, Suzanne G. Odom

Publication Date: 25 April 2021

Publication Site: The National Law Review

Australia gets a $156 billion pension merger as new laws spur consolidation

Link: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-pensions/australia-gets-a-156-billion-pension-merger-as-new-laws-spur-consolidation-idUSKBN2B70QC

Excerpt:

The mega-merger reflects the rapid consolidation of Australia’s A$3 trillion pension industry after a 2018 inquiry found fees charged by some managers were unjustified and eroded workers’ savings, and that many funds were not putting customers’ interests ahead of their own.

The government has since made it mandatory for funds to put member interests first, triggering a wave of mergers as fund boards determine that scaling up results in a better deal for people’s savings.

“The due diligence process we have undertaken demonstrates a strong business case for merging with achievable efficiencies and savings,” said QSuper Chair Don Luke and Sunsuper Chair Andrew Fraser in a statement.

Author(s): Reuters staff

Publication Date: 15 March 2021

Publication Site: Reuters

Wall Street wants to end Trump-era ESG fund rule for 401(k) plans

Link: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/04/wall-street-wants-to-end-trump-era-esg-fund-rule-for-401k-plans.html

Excerpt:

The Labor Department issued a rule in October, during the Trump administration, that experts say would curb use of ESG funds in 401(k) plans.

Money managers and other stakeholders are pushing the Biden administration to scrap the rule or agree not to enforce it, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Investor demand for ESG funds has grown significantly. 401(k) plans represent a big untapped growth source.

Author(s): Greg Iacurci

Publication Date: 4 March 2021

Publication Site: CNBC

Wall Street Lobbies to Bring More ESG Funds Into 401(k)s

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/wall-street-lobbies-to-bring-more-esg-funds-into-401-k-s-11614767400?mod=djemwhatsnews

Excerpt:

Money managers are lobbying to scrap a Trump-era rule that makes it difficult for 401(k) plans to invest in socially focused funds.

The Labor Department ruleannounced in October, imposed restrictions on what can and can’t be offered as company 401(k) funds. One result is that plans can’t use funds with nonfinancial goals as default investments for employees.

That means 401(k) overseers and managers need to show that environmental, social and governance strategies can boost financial returns—a challenge for the nascent industry. ESG-focused funds are a growing profit center for asset managers.

Lobbyists representing managers, pensions and retirees began making calls to the Biden transition team in the weeks after the rule was announced. Some lobbyists urged the incoming administration to agree not to enforce the rule and place it under review, said people familiar with the matter.

Author(s): Dawn Lim

Publication Date: 2 March 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal