The 52-year-old executive [Greg Lindberg] was indicted last month on federal charges that he defrauded his insurers by lending $2 billion of their funds to companies in his private conglomerate, while allegedly siphoning off huge sums to finance his lavish lifestyle. He has pleaded not guilty and is out on bail.
Until last July, Mr. Lindberg was in federal prison on bribery charges related to the insurers. He was released after 21 months when an appeals court overturned the conviction. A retrial is scheduled for November.
What rankles Mr. Zintel and others is that they believe Mr. Lindberg is using their money to fight his legal entanglements, allowing him to continue living extravagantly even as they cut back. Among the alleged extravagances: The divorced executive has spent millions of dollars on gifts for women, according to court documents, including paying some women to produce offspring for him.
Some 70,000 holders of annuities totaling $2.2 billion are unable to withdraw their money, filings show. Many are retirees or conservative investors who bought five- to seven-year annuities in 2017 and 2018. Financial advisers typically marketed them as a safe, higher-yielding alternative to bank CDs.
* The pension fund holds much more of its money in cash than other comparable state pension funds and more than its allocation policy suggests. State Treasurer Dale Folwell routinely overrides the policy to prevent “rebalancing.” * Folwell emphasizes steeling the pension plan against stock market downturns. That’s led to the plan missing out on the big stock market gains of the last few years. Returns for the state pension fund are far lower than comparable public pension funds. * Folwell repeatedly liquidated stock to shift money to bonds and cash. *He has lowered the pension fund’s assumed rate of return in stages, which means the state and local governments have had to increase their contributions.
Forensic investigations in Rhode Island, North Carolina, Kentucky and Ohio reveal that gambling 30 percent or more on high-cost, high-risk, secretive alternative investments has exposed pensions to massively greater risks and reduced net returns. The time is ripe for legislators, regulators, and law enforcement to act to stop the looting.
A recent New York Times NYT-3% article revealed that putting more than half of the $62 billion Pennsylvania state teachers’ retirement fund’s assets into risky alternative investments hadn’t worked out well for the pension and had spurred an investigation by the FBI. The FBI is investigating reporting fraud—returns allegedly falsified to avoid increased worker contributions to the pension.
Law enforcement investigations into public pension funds that lie about their returns are long, long overdue.
North Carolina’s Debt Affordability Advisory Committee says the state should set aside $100 million a year to help the state pension systems remain solvent.
A draft released Wednesday, Feb. 24, of the committee’s 2021 debt affordability study also calls for North Carolina to maintain its 4% borrowing cap.
The committee said more money is needed to support post-employment benefits, including pensions and health care. Officials said the state’s pension systems show a $12.1 billion shortfall, while the State Health Plan is underfunded by $27.7 billion.
The committee said the state should put $100 million annually into the Unfunded Liability Solvency Reserve through fiscal 2025 to help lower that number.
The $116 billion North Carolina Retirement Systems has lowered its assumed rate of investment return for the third time in four years, cutting it by 50 basis points (bps) to 6.5% from 7% annually.
The target return had already been reduced to 7.2% from 7.25% in 2017 and again in 2018 to 7%. Prior to then, the rates had been left unchanged for nearly six decades even though the two main state pension funds—the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System and the Local Government Employees’ Retirement System—have, on average, underperformed their assumed rates of return over the past 20 years. In fact, the new target rate of 6.5% is still higher than the fund’s estimated 20-year return of 6.28%.
In a move that will make government-employee pensions less risky for taxpayers, N.C. Treasurer Dale Folwell announced Tuesday, Feb. 2, that the assumed rate of return on the main state retirement plan will be lowered.
Folwell and the Retirement Systems Division said the assumed rate of return for investments in the North Carolina Retirement Systems Fund will be reduced from 7% to 6.5%. The move was unanimously approved by the boards representing teachers, state employees and local government employees on Jan. 28.
Lowering the rate requires greater contributions from state and local governments, but keeps debt from piling up in the long term.