Gov. Wolf puts critic back on $60 billion pension board



In November, Democrat Joseph Torsella lost his position as an overseer of Pennsylvania’s $60 billion school pension fund when he lost reelection as state treasurer. But on Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf tapped Torsella to return to the PSERS board as his representative.

The appointment, which requires majority approval by the State Senate, would restore Torsella to a growing reform bloc on the 15-member board for PSERS. That stands for Public Schools Employees’ Retirement System, which sends checks to about 250,000 retired teachers and other former school workers.

During his single four-year term as treasurer, Torsella, by dint of his position, served on the PSERS board and that of its smaller, $30 billion sister fund for state employees, known as SERS.

Author(s): Joseph N. DiStefano

Publication Date: 25 February 2021

Publication Site: Inquirer

Still primed for public life, ex-Pa. Treasurer Torsella reflects on pensions and bipartisanship


Torsella also was at the center of a burgeoning bloc of hedge fund and private equity skeptics on state pension boards. He has publicly criticized Wall Street firms for charging too many fees for too little gain.

Torsella also co-authored a bipartisan legislative report that estimated Wall Street firms had taken $5.5 billion from the state over the past 30 years.

Pension officials have countered that private equity investments pay off, and provide a way for the fund to grow its assets hurt by bad policy, underinvestment, and losses from the 2008 crash.

Author(s): Stephen Caruso

Publication Date: 3 February 2021

Publication Site: Pennsylvania Capital-Star

Pa. Treasurer Joe Torsella tried to reform the state’s biggest pension funds. Then he lost his job.




As treasurer, Torsella automatically got a board seat on Pennsylvania’s two massive pension plans, the $60 billion PSERS for public school employees and the $30 billion SERS for state workers. (The letters stand for the Public School Employees’ Retirement System and the State Employees’ Retirement System.)

Everything about them is supersized. Together, they serve more than 700,000 retired and working Pennsylvanians. Taxpayers pay $7 billion into the funds annually, up from near zero in the early 2000s, and five times what employees contribute. Despite that, the plans are hugely underfunded — collectively short $65 billion.

Their health is heavily dependent on their investments. Once on board, Torsella asked to see investment contracts and fee deals with outside money managers — and was told they were not public. It was as if they were somehow more confidential than a town paving contract or a sanitation worker’s salary.

Author(s): Joseph N. DiStefano

Publication Date: 19 February 2021

Publication Site: Philadelphia Inquirer