Alternative Investment Looting Is Destroying Pension Funds

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsiedle/2021/05/21/alternative-investment-looting-is-destroying-pension-funds/?sh=1e71137979c1

Excerpt:

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.

Author(s): Edward Siedle

Publication Date: 21 May 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

Members of teacher pension fund planning lawsuit to force transparency

Link: https://news.yahoo.com/members-teacher-pension-fund-planning-110300430.html?guccounter=1

Excerpt:

About 1,000 current and retired Ohio educators skeptical of the true financial shape of their $90 billion state pension fund are preparing to sue to force greater cooperation with a $75,000 self-funded investigation of its books.

The forensics audit, financed through money raised from members, is being undertaken by pension investment expert Ted Siedle — a former Securities Exchange Commission attorney, financial forensics investigator, and co-author of the book “Who Stole My Pension?”

The public records lawsuit will ask the Ohio Supreme Court to force the State Teachers Retirement System, serving some 500,000 active, inactive, and retired members, to release information that investment firms have claimed is proprietary or a trade secret.

Author(s): Jim Provance, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio

Publication Date: 3 May 2021

Publication Site: Yahoo News

Early Warning Systems Can Help States Identify Signs of Fiscal Distress

Link: https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2021/03/04/early-warning-systems-can-help-states-identify-signs-of-fiscal-distress?utm_campaign=2021-03-09+Squeeze+map&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Pew

Excerpt:

In a white paper for The Pew Charitable Trusts, Eric Scorsone and Natalie Pruett of the Michigan State University Extension’s Michigan Center for Local Government Finance & Policy assessed local government early warning systems through case studies in Colorado, Louisiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Each of these states applies various financial ratios—an approach known as ratio analysis—and other indicators to identify signs of local fiscal distress. Ratio analysis uses fractions that capture financial or economic activity within a locality—such as total expenditures over total revenues—to measure solvency, the ability to pay debts and liabilities over the short or long term. Ultimately, the authors determined that there isn’t one optimal system and instead offer several recommendations for states to build or improve their early warning systems.

The authors present detailed descriptions of the four states’ systems and analyze trade-offs and implications of the indicators employed to measure different types of solvency. They offer a variety of recommendations for states to consider, including use of indicators for four types of solvency:

Author(s): Jeff Chapman

Publication Date: 4 March 2021

Publication Site: Pew Trusts

Damschroder: Ohio teachers pension mauled by Panda

Link: https://www.thenews-messenger.com/story/news/2021/03/03/damschroder-ohio-teachers-pension-mauled-panda/6883736002/

Excerpt:

The Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) revived oversight theater, a suit and tie simulation of supervising the $200 billion state pensions. In the first act, ORSC started the process for fiduciary audits of the teachers and police and fire pensions a mere five years after their legal deadline.

….

In reality, STRS has recent evidence that alternative investments come with the risk of massive losses. The Ohio teachers’ pension was one of the first investors in Dallas-based Panda Power. Panda is a merchant generator building plants run by cheap shale gas to produce more profitable electricity. The business model collapsed when utility regulators did not approve anticipated rates. Panda’s bankruptcy filing showed debt of $400 million against cash on hand of $2,000.

Author(s): John Damschroder

Publication Date: 3 March 2021

Publication Site: Fremont News Messenger

Investments post double-digit gains

Excerpt:

Feb. 24, 2021 – The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System posted double-digit investment returns in 2020, topping our assumed return rate in both the Defined Benefit and Health Care funds.

The OPERS Defined Benefit Fund returned 12.02 percent last year, compared to the target return of 7.2 percent. The Health Care Fund increased by 10.96 percent, compared to the target return of 6.0 percent.

Four asset classes led the strong absolute returns: U.S. Equities, Non-U.S. Equities, Private Equity and Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, commonly referred to as TIPS. Other bonds also had a strong year, as core fixed income securities returned more than 9 percent, and U.S. Treasuries topped 8 percent for the year.

Author(s): Michael Pramik

Publication Date: 24 February 2021

Publication Site: Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

Unemployment System Fraud: Who’s Doing It and How?

Link: https://www.governing.com/work/Unemployment-System-Fraud-Whos-Doing-It-and-How.html

Excerpt:

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that $63 billion – possibly more – has been paid out by state unemployment offices. California’s unemployment system alone says it paid out more than $11 billion to scammers in 2020. But who are these scammers? And how have they been able to collect upwards of $63 billion – including at least $330 million from Ohio? Here are some answers.

….

At least 70 percent of the bogus unemployment claims originated overseas in countries such as Nigeria, according to Haywood Talcove, CEO of the security firm LexisNexis Risk Solutions, citing data from a dozen states (Ohio isn’t one of them) that have hired his firm to help secure their unemployment systems.

A large portion of these scams are conducted by organized crime rings with names like “Scattered Canary” and “Yahoo Boys,” Hall said. “They literally just live in compounds and all they do, 24/7 is try to figure out how to trick people into stealing their identity and, you know, stripping their bank account of funds,” he said.

Author(s): JEREMY PELZER, CLEVELAND.COM

Publication Date: 11 February 2021

Publication Site: Governing

Ohio has underreported coronavirus deaths by 4,000, state discloses

Link: https://www.toledoblade.com/local/Coronavirus/2021/02/10/ohio-new-coronavirus-cases-still-below-average/stories/20210210105

Excerpt:

Ohio reported 3,281 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, which is below the 21-day average of 4,105, while also disclosing that statistics from late last year appeared to have underreported coronavirus deaths by as many as 4,000 people.

The state has reached a total of 928,631 cases and 11,856 deaths, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Sixty-three of those deaths were reported Wednesday, which is below the 21-day average of 69.

But that death toll does not yet include deaths from October, November, and December that were omitted and “will be added to the state’s death count during the coming week,” the health department said in a statement.

Publication Date: 10 February 2021

Publication Site: Toledo Blade