Pacific Life Fined for Unlicensed Pension Risk Transfers in New York

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/pacific-life-fined-for-unlicensed-pension-risk-transfers-in-new-york/

Excerpt:

Pacific Life Insurance Co. has agreed to pay a $3 million fine after a New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) investigation found that the firm had conducted pension risk transfer (PRT) business in the state without a license.

It is the third enforcement action by the DFS against a major insurance company for unlicensed PRT business. In April 2020, the regulator fined Athene $45 million, and in February it fined AIG $12 million, both for conducting unauthorized pension risk transfer transactions in New York.

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 14 Jan 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Massachusetts PRIM Proposes $1 Billion Investment to Boost Diversity in Managers

Link:https://www.ai-cio.com/news/massachusetts-prim-proposes-1-billion-investment-to-boost-diversity-in-managers/

Excerpt:

Massachusetts’ $95.7 billion state pension fund has preliminarily approved a plan to invest up to $1 billion in emerging-diverse managers over the next two years. The move is part of the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management (PRIM)’s initiative to abide by the state’s investment equity law, which contains a target of at least 20% diversity among PRIM’s vendor base.

“The PRIM team, by investing $1 billion into its emerging-diverse managers program, is taking important steps in addressing the inequities endemic in the financial services sector,” State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who is also the chair of PRIM’s board, said in a statement. “This is real and tangible progress that will reduce barriers and expand opportunities for diverse investment managers.”

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 1 Dec 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO

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

The Curious Case Against Hedge Funds in Kentucky

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/the-curious-case-against-hedge-funds-in-kentucky/

Excerpt:

The lawsuit notes the difficult position the retirement system was in, saying that “there was no prudent investment strategy that would allow KRS to invest its way to significantly improved funded status,” and that “the trustees were trapped in a demographic/financial vise.” However, while acknowledging there was no prudent investment strategy for KRS to get out of the hole it was in, the plaintiffs are simultaneously critical of Carlson and the other defendants for taking what they consider to be “longshot imprudent risks.”

The lawsuit also criticizes the hedge funds of funds for not providing high enough returns for the entire KRS portfolio to meet or exceed its 7.75% assumed rate of return. However, the same could be said for fixed income and many other assets in the KRS portfolio. Broad hedge fund portfolios are generally created to reduce risk, not beat equity markets.

“The Black Boxes did not provide the investment returns trustees needed for KRS to return to or exceed on the average its AARIR [assumed annual rate of investment return] of 7.75%,” says the lawsuit, which is targeting approximately 3% of KRS’ overall investments, while saying they should carry the entire portfolio to meet or outperform a rate of return the state acknowledged as “unrealistic and unachievable.”

The lawsuit also claims the investments “lost millions of dollars in 2015 to 2016,” which was more than two years after Carlson left, and which was a particularly bad time period for the entire hedge fund industry. The lawsuit criticized one of the investments, known as the Henry Clay Fund, for providing “exceptionally large fees for Blackstone”; however, the suit also states that “the amount of the fees could not be calculated and were not disclosed.”

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 15 Oct 2021

Publication Site: AI-CIO

States Divest Unilever Stock Over Ben & Jerry’s Boycott

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/states-divest-unilever-stock-over-ben-jerrys-boycott/

Excerpt:

State treasurers in New Jersey and Arizona are divesting approximately $325 million in investments from consumer goods giant Unilever after subsidiary Ben & Jerry said it will stop selling its ice cream in Israeli-occupied territories.

In July, the company said in a statement that it was “inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” It said it has informed the licensee that manufacturers the ice cream in the region that it will not renew its license when it expires at the end of 2022. Despite leaving the Palestinian territories, Ben & Jerry’s said it will stay in Israel through a different arrangement that has not yet been determined.

A New Jersey law enacted in 2016 requires state pension funds to withdraw investments from any company that boycotts the goods, products, or businesses of Israel or companies operating in Israel or territories occupied by Israel. The law requires the state to create a blacklist of companies that boycott Israel.

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 20 Sept 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO

FBI Said to Seek Evidence of Kickbacks, Bribery at Pennsylvania PSERS

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/fbi-said-to-seek-evidence-of-kickbacks-bribery-at-pennsylvania-psers/

Excerpt:

Subpoenas indicate that the FBI and federal prosecutors are seeking evidence of kickbacks and bribes in an investigation of the $62 billion Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS)’s misstatement of its 2020 investment performance and its real estate investment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

In December, PSERS’ board of trustees certified the contribution rates for its members. The board was told by its general investment consultant and another firm that the retirement system’s nine-year performance figure was 6.38%, which was just high enough to avoid triggering additional contributions under state law.

……

The court orders reportedly reveal that the FBI and prosecutors are investigating possible “honest services fraud” and wire fraud. Under a 2010 US Supreme Court ruling, federal prosecutors need proof of illegal payments to seek criminal charges against state officials for not providing honest services, the Inquirer reported.

No one at PSERS, including the executives who received subpoenas, has been accused of any wrongdoing.

And according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, PSERS’ board of trustees has spent more than $1 million and counting in its investigation of the reporting error.

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 19 May 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO

NY State Pension Commits to $400 Million in Sustainable Investments

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/ny-state-pension-commits-400-million-sustainable-investments/

Excerpt:

The $247.7 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund has committed approximately $400 million to two funds as part of its Sustainable Investments and Climate Solutions (SICS) Program.

The commitments are part of New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s climate action plan to lower investment risks from climate change and help shift the pension fund to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within the next 20 years.

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 26 April 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO

NY State Pension Commits to $400 Million in Sustainable Investments

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/ny-state-pension-commits-400-million-sustainable-investments/

Excerpt:

The $247.7 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund has committed approximately $400 million to two funds as part of its Sustainable Investments and Climate Solutions (SICS) Program.

The commitments are part of New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s climate action plan to lower investment risks from climate change and help shift the pension fund to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within the next 20 years.

“While climate change poses investment risks, it also creates opportunities for the state pension fund to invest in the companies and funds that are best positioned for the low-carbon future,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “The commitments we announced today aim to take advantage of the growth in climate investing and to strengthen our portfolio for the long-term.”

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 26 April 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Pandemic Accelerates Social Risks to Investment Portfolios

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/pandemic-accelerates-social-risks-investment-portfolios/

Excerpt:

According to State Street Global Advisors (SSGA)’s annual stewardship report, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the trend of the increasing significance of social risks within environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risk management.

“Insufficient data remains a challenge, but the ‘S’ is undeniably more important than ever to investors and other stakeholders,” according to the report. “As a result, companies are more focused on social issues, which will likely lead to a proliferation in data over the coming years.”

The firm said it is working with the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and others to develop relevant key performance indicators and is refining its approach to social issues such as human capital management.

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 29 March 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Funded Levels of Canadian DB Plans Climb to 20-Year High

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/funded-levels-canadian-db-plans-climb-20-year-high/

Excerpt:

Thanks to surging bond prices, Canadian defined benefit (DB) pension plans ended the first quarter of this year at their highest funded levels in more than 20 years, according to Mercer. However, the asset manager and consulting firm warns that the lofty funded positions might not last, depending on the trajectory of interest rates, inflation expectations, and equity market performance.

Mercer’s Pension Health Index, which tracks the solvency ratio of a hypothetical DB pension plan, increased to 124% at the end of March from 114% at the end of 2020. That is the index’s highest level since it was launched in 1999. Meanwhile, the median solvency ratio of the pension plans of Mercer clients was 104% as of the end of March, up from 96% at the end of December.

Long bond yields jumped 77 basis points (bps) during the quarter to lower the plans’ liabilities and more than offset the negative returns reported by many pension funds during the period.

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 12 April 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Vermont Pension Reform Plan Blasted by State Teachers, Workers

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/vermont-pension-reform-plan-blasted-state-teachers-worker/

Graphic:

Excerpt:

A plan proposed by Vermont lawmakers to bolster the state’s pension systems, which are facing nearly $3 billion in unfunded liabilities, has been resoundingly panned by state teachers and public employees who said they felt abandoned and betrayed.

According to a draft of the pension reform plan released by the state’s House lawmakers, teachers and state employees would be required to pay more in contributions to the fund, stay in the workforce longer, and get less in monthly benefits when they retire. Additionally, cost of living adjustments (COLAs) would apply only to the first $24,000 of the retirement benefit, and to be vested in the program, employees would have to work twice as long—a minimum of 10 years from the current five.

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 30 March 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Kentucky Lawmakers Override Pension Bill Veto

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/kentucky-lawmakers-override-pension-bill-veto/

Excerpt:

The GOP-run Kentucky state legislature has overridden Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of a pension reform bill that will place new teachers in a hybrid pension plan that incorporates aspects of a defined contribution (DC) and a defined benefit (DB) plan.

Under House Bill 258, new teachers are required to contribute more to their retirement plans than current teachers do, and they will have to work for 30 years instead of 27 to earn their maximum benefits. The new rules will become effective at the beginning of 2022.

The bill had been passed by large majority of both chambers of the legislature earlier this year, with the House passing it by a vote of 68 to 28 and the Senate passing it by a count of 63 to 34. Because the state’s Republicans have a supermajority in both the House and Senate, they didn’t have much difficulty in overriding the veto, which was one of 24 vetoes passed down by Beshear, a Democrat, that were overridden in one day.

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 1 April 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO