Ohio Teachers Pension Touts Past Transparency Awards, Fails To Disclose Special Investigation By State Auditor

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsiedle/2022/05/23/ohio-teachers-pension-touts-past–transparency-awards-fails-to-disclose-special-investigation-by-state-auditor/

Excerpt:

The nearly $100 billion State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio never tires of telling its members of past transparency awards it has received from Ohio State Auditor Keith Faber. The fact that Faber’s office is currently conducting a special investigation into the pension’s transparency practices, prompted by public records lawsuits and numerous member complaints—the results of which could, says the auditor, affect the retirement system’s rating in the future—is not disclosed by the pension.

In April 2022 Board News under the heading, “STRS Ohio earns auditor of state’s top rating from transparency for second year,” the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio’s website boasts:

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Perhaps not surprising, this self-professed paragon of transparency is not touting the following ugly facts provided to me by the auditor’s office in a recent email:

“In October 2021, Auditor of State Keith Faber informed STRS that his office was launching a special audit after receiving numerous complaints, following the release of a report issued by Benchmark Financial Services Inc. titled “The High Cost of Secrecy: Preliminary Findings of Forensic Investigation of State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio,” commissioned by Ohio Retired Teachers Association.

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In other words, it appears the Auditor of State’s transparency rating system merely asks whether a public agency has policies and procedures addressing transparency, not whether the agency is, in fact, being transparent in its dealings with the public in compliance with applicable laws. Such a rating system is of limited value to stakeholders, in my opinion, and presents the very real risk of being misinterpreted, as well as unduly relied upon, by the public.

Author(s): Edward Siedle

Publication Date: 23 May 2022

Publication Site: Forbes

Facebook International Man Of Mystery And GoFundMe Fraudster Disrupt $115 Billion Ohio Pension Forensic Investigation

Link:https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsiedle/2021/12/20/facebook-international-man-of-mystery-and-gofundme-fraudster-disrupt-115-billion-ohio-pension-forensic-investigation/?sh=3ef0ed262c78

Excerpt:

Who is Facebook international man of mystery Robert Parkle and why is he advising Ohio Public Employees Retirement System stakeholders not to follow through with an expert forensic investigation of their state pension? Why did Kasandra Ward from Aurora, Colorado create a fraudulent OPERS Forensic Investigation GoFundMe page apparently to divert funds from the real project? Our nation’s public pensions have never been more precarious and there are powerful interests working hard to keep pension stakeholders in the dark.  

Earlier this year, a forensic investigation of the $90 billion-plus State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio commissioned by the Ohio Retired Teachers Association and performed by my firm, was completed. The damning preliminary findings were reported to Ohio legislators, regulators and law enforcement in a 100-plus page report entitled The High Cost of Secrecy.

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In conclusion, I won’t speculate who may be seeking to derail the proposed forensic investigation of the $115 Billion Ohio Public Employees Retirement System on behalf of pension stakeholders, or why. One thing is for certain: One or more persons is seeking to disrupt the investigation into potential mismanagement and malfeasance at the massive pension.

Stakeholders in all 5 Ohio public pensions, including OPERS, should be alarmed and securities regulators and law enforcement ought to investigate any apparent violations of law through social media.

Author(s): Edward Siedle

Publication Date: 20 Dec 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

Ohio Teachers Pension Faces Special Audit Over Scathing Report

Link:https://www.ai-cio.com/news/ohio-teachers-pension-faces-special-audit-over-scathing-report/

Excerpt:

The $95 billion Ohio State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) is facing a special state audit over a report that accuses the pension fund of secretly collaborating with Wall Street firms, lacking transparency, and wasting billions of dollars.

In June, Benchmark Financial Services released preliminary findings of a forensic investigation of Ohio STRS titled “The High Cost of Secrecy.” The report ripped into the retirement system, saying it “has long abandoned transparency, choosing instead to collaborate with Wall Street firms to eviscerate Ohio public records laws and avoid accountability.”

The Ohio Auditor of State’s Office recently sent a letter to Ohio STRS Executive Director William Neville saying it has received “numerous complaints” regarding the report and that it had conducted a preliminary examination into the matter.

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 25 Oct 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Everyone Is Urging SEC To Stop Public Pension Mismanagement, Looting By Wall Street

Link:https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsiedle/2021/10/07/everyone-is-urging-sec-to-stop-public-pension-mismanagement–looting-by-wall-street/

Excerpt:

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.”

Author(s): Edward Siedle

Publication Date: 7 October 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

Chicago Police Pension Forensic Audit Ends With Disturbing Findings

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsiedle/2021/09/03/chicago-police-pension-forensic-audit-ends-with-disturbing-findings/?sh=18a0d9717c0c

Excerpt:

This week, the Chicago Police Department Pension Board Accountability Group—comprised of retired and active Chicago police officers and their dependents— released the scathing findings of a forensic audit of the Chicago Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund. The Group hired an outside expert to conduct the forensic audit after the pension refused their request to do so on its own.

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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

Author(s): Edward Siedle

Publication Date: 3 Sept 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

Chicago Police Pension Forensic Audit Ends With Disturbing Findings

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsiedle/2021/09/03/chicago-police-pension-forensic-audit-ends-with-disturbing-findings/

Excerpt:

This week, the Chicago Police Department Pension Board Accountability Group—comprised of retired and active Chicago police officers and their dependents— released the scathing findings of a forensic audit of the Chicago Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund. The Group hired an outside expert to conduct the forensic audit after the pension refused their request to do so on its own.

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.”

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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.”

Author(s): Edward Siedle

Publication Date: 3 September 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

Mismanagement Compounding Underfunding: The Chicago Police Pension Forensic Audit

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ebauer/2021/09/06/mismanagement-compounding-underfunding-the-chicago-police-pension-forensic-audit/

Excerpt:

It is reasonably well-known that the pension plan has been underfunded for years, and that the state, in setting a new funding plan, allowed a “funding ramp” in 2011 and then re-set that ramp in 2016, so that funding according to the “90% funded by 2055” target only began in 2020. However, Tobe alleges that “Chicago has consistently underfunded the plan more than the statutory amount, blatantly breaking the law, with no consequences.”

Regarding fees and management, Tobe alleges that the pension fund has “failed to monitor and fully disclose investment fees and expenses” and that “fees and expenses could be 10 times that which they disclose” because the fund’s disclosure “omits dozens of managers and their fees.” He also reports that the Fund claimed that “hundreds of contracts for the investment managers” are exempt from FOIA, and denied him access to the fund’s own analysis of fees. He concludes that “PABF may have over 100 ‘ghost managers’ in funds of funds,” that is, the fund is required to disclose its managers but it fails to do so, even though Tobe has identified them through other sources.

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With respect to governance, the fund violates a fundamental aspect of prudent governance because its Chief Investment Officer is not a professional with qualification in the field, but simply a trustee and active-duty policeman, and, what’s more, one who has “22 allegations of misconduct as a police officer including one for bribery/official corruption.” Further, no staff members hold the credential of a CFA charter, another marker of professionalism. Another related governance issue is the use of offshore investments, e.g., in the Cayman Islands, which lack key governance and transparency protections of US-based funds.

Author(s): Elizabeth Bauer

Publication Date: 6 September 2021

Publication Site: Forbes