Cameron’s filing was almost entirely dependent on the original plantiffs’ documents. It’s become increasingly evident that Cameron never intended to litigate. The best guess is that Cameron needed a distraction from bad Brionna Taylor headlines, and also saw the Mayberry v. KKR case as an opportunity to engage in a little shakedown by making a potentially explosive case go away via a cost-of-doing-business settlement.
But Cameron appears to have badly underestimated his opponents, led by the formidable attorney Michelle Lerach and her husband, the disbarred but still very much feared Bill Lerach, who acts as a consultant. A quick and cheap settlement can occur only if the defendants can escape what they fear most, discovery. But the latest order from Judge Philip Shepherd shows he is moving forward with the reconfigured case, now involving “Tier 3” beneficiaries in a hybrid plan that does not have a state guarantee. That upsets Cameron’s plans to settle the case before the Tier 3 plaintiffs go going, which would allow his to go lowball based on public information and the limited discovery to date.
The Kentucky House recently passed a state bill that would place newly-hired Kentucky teachers into a new “hybrid” retirement plan design. The new hybrid plan would blend a “foundational” defined benefit pension plan with a “supplemental” defined contribution plan as a means of de-risking the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System, which is only 58.4 percent funded today.
The legislation, which is now before the Senate’s State and Local Government Committee, ultimately seeks to control future employee, retiree and taxpayer costs. The Teachers’ Retirement System of Kentucky already has nearly $15 billion in unfunded liabilities.
An actuarial analysis of the bill, House Bill 258, projects that it would save Kentucky $3.57 billion over 30 years. While the legislation is not a panacea, if enacted, it would be a positive step in the right direction for Kentucky’s overall public pension challenges, which rank among the most difficult in the nation.
A bill creating a new pension tier for future teachers that will require them to pay more toward their retirement and work longer before they can earn full benefits passed the House Thursday.
House Bill 258, sponsored by Rep. C. Ed Massey, moved to the House floor on a 14-4 vote and cleared the lower chamber hours later on a 68-28 vote. The measure, if passed, would put teachers and others covered by the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System hired after Jan. 1, 2022, into a new hybrid pension plan that includes foundational and supplemental benefits.
Massey, R-Hebron, said the proposal would keep future hires from joining “an already burdened and overtaxed” defined-benefit pension system at KTRS, which actuaries expect will have unfunded pension liabilities totaling $14.8 billion and have 58.4% of the money needed to cover pension costs for current retirees and workers by fiscal year 2023.
Now, generally speaking, when an employer switches from a traditional pension to a defined contribution plan, this means a significant drop in plan benefits for employees. In Florida, that’s not the case — at least nominally not so: the employer contribution rate is the same for either type of plan, and varies only by employment class. (Of course, this doesn’t take into account any additional contributions needed to remedy funded status.) In addition, regular readers will know that I insist whenever the opportunity arises that state and local employees should participate in Social Security just as much as the rest of us do; as it happens, that is already the case for public employees in Florida. In addition, unlike the 8 year vesting of the traditional pension plan, the employer contributions to the defined contribution plan vest after only a year of service.
A key hearing next week, on February 8, ought to shed some light on how Judge Philip Shepherd intends to deal with Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who is showing perilous little respect for the judge’s desire to move the landmark pension case, Mayberry v. KKR, along in a disciplined manner after it has languished for over three years. We’ve embedded Judge Shepherd’s order of December 28, the Attorney General’s request for an extension of time, and the Tier 3 Plaintiffs’ Motion of Opposition to the Attorney General’s extension of time. You can see the other major filings, including the complaint by the Tier 3 members that they hope to get leave to file, here.
We need to cover a lot of background before getting to the elephant in the room, that the timing of the Attorney General’s intervention looks suspect, particularly since he is a protege of Mitch McConnell and the suit he pulled from the jaws of apparent death by his intervention fingers heavyweight Republican donors Steve Schwarzman of Blackstone and Henry Kravis of KKR personally, along with their firms. Political insiders in Kentucky believe that Cameron needed some good headlines after getting considerable criticism in the national press for going easy on the cops that shot Brionna Taylor. One theory was that the revival of this lawsuit was also effectively a shakedown: Cameron would give the private equity firms a “cost of doing business” settlement, with no embarrassing discover, with an expected quid pro quo in dark money payments. Another theory is that Cameron might pursue the case a little but still enter into a cheapie settlement if he can use discovery to damage the Beshears, a Democratic party dynasty that had their fingers all over the Kentucky Retirement System mess.
“Everybody knows it exists,” Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, said of illegal sports betting. “Everybody knows it happens. But people who do it don’t have any protections and the state’s not reaping any benefits from it.”
For several years now Rep. Koenig has sponsored sports wagering bills, including House Bill 241 this session.
He says an estimated $2 billion is wagered illegally in Kentucky each year. Under HB 241, five percent of the net money the state receives from sports wagering would go to addiction prevention and treatment, with the rest going toward the state’s pension liabilities.
When Steven Herbert started at the Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS) last week, after a monthslong talent search, he became the sixth investment chief in 13 years to take the helm at the struggling pension program.
Kentucky Retirement Systems CIO Steven Herbert
The $18.3 billion state system has had a tough time holding on to its investment staff. Herbert will replace Rich Robben, the former CIO who departed last fall for a consulting position. But other allocators have decamped before him, including David Peden, now a consultant at Mercer subsidiary Pavilion; TJ Carlson, now CIO at Texas Municipal; Adam Tosh, now senior portfolio manager in Alaska’s Bristol Bay Native Corporation; and John Krimmel, now an NEPC consultant.
A short update on the Mayberry v. KKR, a pathbreaking public pension suit targeting customized hedge funds designed for the sitting duck Kentucky Retirement Systems by Blackstone, KKR, and PAACO. The litigation is on track to becoming a Jarndyce v Jarndyce level case study in the (mis)use of procedure to delay a case.
I neglected to add that one reason for trying another amendment as opposed to a new filing would be to assure that Shepherd remained the trial judge. New cases are assigned randomly to judges and the other judge in Frankfort is pro-corporate. However, the Attorney General’s Motion to Intervene was assigned to Shepherd’s colleague, and he bounced it over to Shepherd, so that risk looks to no longer be operative.
Description: Author Ivonne Rovira argues that House Bill 258 filed by Kentucky state rep Ed Massey to create a new pension tier for teachers in the Kentucky TRS gives lower benefits and is a divide-and-conquer political strategy. Rovira is the research director for the statewide organization Save Our Schools Kentucky.