Two Top Pennsylvania Pension Fund Officials to Retire Amid Federal Probe

Link:https://www.wsj.com/articles/pennsylvania-pension-cio-jim-grossman-to-resign-amid-federal-probe-11637243641

Excerpt:

Two top officials at Pennsylvania’s largest pension fund are retiring amid a federal investigation and calls by some board members for their ouster.

The board of Pennsylvania’s $64 billion Public School Employees’ Retirement System voted Thursday to approve resolutions accepting the retirement of Glen Grell, the executive director, and Jim Grossman, the chief investment officer. Board members approved plans for both men to stay on in temporary advisory positions and authorized the board chair to begin a search for their replacements.

The fund has been racked by turmoil since board members learned in March that a report of investment returns was too high. The accurate figure was low enough to trigger an increase in payments from employees that the plan serves. Investigations conducted by the fund haven’t found wrongdoing on the part of investment staff.

The board said in April that it had hired law firms to investigate the miscalculation and to respond to a federal grand jury subpoena requesting documents. The pension declined to comment on what information the grand jury is seeking.

Author(s): Heather Gillers

Publication Date: 18 Nov 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal

CalSTRS Expected to Hit Full Funding Five Years Ahead of Schedule

Link:https://www.ai-cio.com/news/calstrs-expected-to-hit-full-funding-five-years-ahead-of-schedule/

Excerpt:

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) is now expected to hit full funding in 2041, five years ahead of last year’s prediction of reaching that level in 2046, according to a presentation from CalSTRS Deputy System Actuary David Lamoureux at the fund’s most recent board meeting on Friday. Additionally, board members anticipate that CalSTRS will hit 80% funding in 2024, 10 years ahead of schedule.

The timeline shift is due to the unexpectedly high 27% return CalSTRS earned in the most recent year. The CalSTRS board plans to release the excess funds from this year’s record return over the course of three years. This means that this year, only one-third of the excess funds will be used to alleviate the funded rate. “Because of that, our funding levels will improve, but they will improve slowly over time,” Lamoureux said at the board meeting.

Author(s): Anna Gordon

Publication Date: 10 Nov 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Tennessee pension system boasts historic investment earnings

Link: https://www.timesnews.net/news/state/tennessee-pension-system-boasts-historic-investment-earnings/article_458bf20e-b7a6-5007-a1ff-246bf738f846.html

Excerpt:

TCRS made $13.6 billion in fiscal 2021; a record high in earnings that put the balance of TCRS’ investments at $65.3 billion. In fiscal 2020, the system had a 4.94% return and finished the fiscal year with a balance of $53.4 billion. The Tennessee Department of Treasury said that return outearned its peers by four times the median 1.2% return during the fiscal year.

“When retirement plans around the nation are under scrutiny for their performance, TCRS is thriving,” Tennessee Treasurer David Lillard said. “Our Governor and General Assembly ensure the plan is fully funded every year. The Tennessee Department of Treasury strives to be good stewards of the state’s financial resources. This $13.6 billion in investment income is evidence of our commitment to both active and retired members of the TCRS pension plan.”

Author(s): Jon Styf, The Center Square

Publication Date: 7 October 2021

Publication Site: Times News

State of Pensions 2021

Link: https://equable.org/state-of-pensions-2021/

Graphic:

Link to PDF report:https://equable.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Equable-Institute_State-of-Pensions-2021_Final.pdf

Excerpt:

State retirement systems in America improved from last year, but are still Fragile. 

This an annual report on the current status of statewide public pension systems, put into a historic context. State and local governments face a wide range of challenges in general – and some of the largest are growing and unpredictable pension costs. The scale and effects of these challenges are best understood by considering the multi-decade financial trends and funding policy decisions that have brought public sector retirement systems to this moment. 

The financial market volatility over the past 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic has ultimately been a positive investment climate for institutional investors like state pension plans. And the federal government has provided substantial financial aid to states and municipalities, smoothing over what could have been seismic budgetary shortfalls in some jurisdictions due to tax revenue declines. The combined historically unprecedented nature of these events continues to create an unpredictable environment for state pension plans. However, in this report Equable uses patterns of behavior from the past two decades as a guide to what might happen in the coming decade while also a means to identify areas of concern that should be monitored closely or acted upon immediately.

Authors: Anthony Randazzo, Jonathan Moody, PhD

Publication Date: Accessed 23 Sept 2021

Publication Site: Equable Institute

Music Sentiment and Stock Returns Around the World

Link: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3776071

Graphic:

Excerpt:

This paper introduces a real-time, continuous measure of national sentiment that is language-free and thus comparable globally: the positivity of songs that individuals choose to listen to. This is a direct measure of mood that does not pre-specify certain mood-affecting events nor assume the extent of their impact on investors. We validate our music-based sentiment measure by correlating it with mood swings induced by seasonal factors, weather conditions, and COVID-related restrictions. We find that music sentiment is positively correlated with same-week equity market returns and negatively correlated with next-week returns, consistent with sentiment-induced temporary mispricing. Results also hold under a daily analysis and are stronger when trading restrictions limit arbitrage. Music sentiment also predicts increases in net mutual fund flows, and absolute sentiment precedes a rise in stock market volatility. It is negatively associated with government bond returns, consistent with a flight to safety.

Author(s):

Alex Edmans
London Business School – Institute of Finance and Accounting; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Adrian Fernandez-Perez
Auckland University of Technology

Alexandre Garel
Audencia Business School

Ivan Indriawan
Auckland University of Technology – Department of Finance

Publication Date: 14 Aug 2021

Publication Site: SSRN, Journal of Financial Economics (forthcoming)

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.

…..

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

The State Pension Funding Gap: Plans Have Stabilized in Wake of Pandemic

Link: https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-briefs/2021/09/the-state-pension-funding-gap-plans-have-stabilized-in-wake-of-pandemic

Graphic:

Excerpt:

Most analysts attribute the strong market performance to historically low interest rates and an unprecedented $5 trillion in federal stimulus in response to the pandemic. In addition, the economy is now recovering at a rapid pace, with recent projections by the Congressional Budget Office, Moody’s, and the Federal Reserve forecasting a return to pre-pandemic levels of gross domestic product by calendar year 2022 or before.3

However, the path to recovery remains uncertain, and the long-term forecast for economic growth and pension investment returns is less rosy. The Congressional Budget Office expects average real economic growth of 1.6% between 2026 and 2031 and nominal growth of 3.7% over the same time frame—significantly lower than the historical average.4 As such, market experts now estimate equity returns, which are related to economic growth and current market value of stocks, to be 6.4% over the long term, compared with 6.7% before the pandemic.5 And with interest rates currently lower than pre-pandemic levels, they also project bonds to yield just 2% over the next decade before returning to the pre-pandemic expected yield of about 4%.6

Author(s): Greg Mennis, David Draine

Publication Date: 14 Sept 2021

Publication Site: Pew Trusts

CalPERS Comes Dead Last of 34 Public Pension Returns Despite Having Biggest, Best Paid Investment Office

Excerpt:

Despite having the most heavily staffed and luxuriously paid investment office of any public pension fund, CalPERS scored the worst investment returns of any of 34 funds tracked by Pensions & Investments.

As you can see at the Pensions & Investments site, CalPERS return for fiscal year 2020-2021 was 21.3%. The next lowest was tiny Kern County, more than two and a half points higher, at 23.9%. CalPERS’ Sacramento sister CalSTRS delivered 27.8%. The stars were Texas County, at 33.7&. New York Common, at 33.6%. San Bernardino County, at 33.3%, Oklahoma Teachers, at 33%, and Oklahoma Firefighters at 31.8%. Mississippi PERS came it at 32.7%, but that was gross of fees. Nevertheless, five funds earned a full 10% in investment returns more than CalPERS, and the pension fund arguably the most similar to CalPERS in terms of scale did more that 6% better.

That extreme laggard result also fell short of CalPERS benchmark of 21.7%. Recall that investment expert Richard Ennis explained at length that public pension funds and their consultants devise their own benchmarks, and they not surprisingly wind up being unduly forgiving

An earlier paper by Ennis found that even though nearly all public pension funds generated negative alpha, as in they actively destroyed value, CalPERS was one of the worst, coming in at number 43 out of 46, with a stunning negative alpha of 2.4%.

Author(s): Yves Smith

Publication Date: 19 August 2021

Publication Site: naked capitalism