The Fairfax County Police Officers Retirement System and Fairfax County Employees’ Retirement System are planning to invest, pending board approvals, a total of $50 million in Parataxis Capital Management LLC’s main fund, which buys various digital tokens and cryptocurrency derivatives.
The outlays come on the heels of the Fairfax funds — which together manage about $7.15 billion — investing several times in Morgan Creek Asset Management funds, and, earlier this year, in crypto venture firm Blockchain Capital. While some of these investments ended up going into coins like Bitcoin, the majority was invested into technology startups, so Fairfax considered them venture-capital investments. Parataxis, with its focus on actual coins, is different.
But that same volatility can lead to outsized returns, which have been one reason for Fairfax’s expanded investment. Molnar’s $1.95 billion police retirement fund was planning for 2% exposure to crypto via Morgan Creek and Blockchain Capital, but at the end of June crypto accounted for 7% of assets, due to appreciation, she said. Although Molnar couldn’t discuss exact appreciation, crypto “was not an insignificant contributor to performance” in the second quarter, she said.
In a September 2, 2021 statement on the police pension’s website it was stated:
“Recently, certain annuitants, without asserting any wrongdoing on the part of the Fund, any Fund employee, or any Board Trustee, past or current, and in fact repeatedly acknowledging no wrongdoing or fraudulent conduct has occurred, have demanded the Board contract with another entity to conduct a desired independent forensic audit. The purpose of a forensic audit is in substance to conduct an investigation as a means of discovering potential fraud, wrongdoing, or other financial crimes. Given that no legitimate cause for this type of audit exists, it is not a prudent use of Fund resources to engage with an additional auditor to perform a forensic audit.”
According to the report, CPABF is one of the worst funded public pension plans in the U.S. today with a funding ratio at year-end of only 23%. That fact alone merits an independent investigation, in my opinion. And, by the way, forensic investigations of pensions are not necessarily focused upon “potential fraud, wrongdoing or financial crimes.”
The Chicago Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund (PABF) – commonly referred to as the “Chicago Police Pension Fund” is one of the worst funded public pension plans in the U.S. today and in U.S. history. Its funding ratio as of today is only 23%.
It is also so damaged by a total lack of transparency that it puts the interest of Wall Street & Chicago Investment Managers over its own current and retired officers. PABF has hidden $10s of millions in investment fees, while denying payment for a disabled officer’s wheelchair.
Retired Chicago Police Officer Rosemarie Giambalvo initiated the call for a complete forensic audit of the Chicago Police Pension fund in February 2020 seeking full transparency and accountability. Rosemarie also founded the CPD Pension Board Accountability Group consisting of over 2600 retired, widows, and active officers who signed two petitions calling for the audit. Rosemarie was told during the February 2020 Pension Board meeting that, “whoever wants an audit must pay for it?” One trustee then stated, “it would cost $20,000”. Rosemarie notified the group members and within two weeks raised the full $20,000 from the group to pay for the audit costing the pension board nothing. Justin Kugler stated, “he didn’t care how much money they raised, we will not consent to a forensic audit!” After the elected trustees refused to address the concerns of their underfunded pensions (22% in 2020), the group agreed to hire myself Christopher Tobe, a Forensic Investigator to which I began the forensic audit report upon being hired by Rosemarie Giambalvo and the group.
The board and staff of the Chicago Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund (PABF) have gone out of their way to conceal and block information for this report. They illegally denied most of our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests only providing small amounts of information which should have been previously disclosed on the web page.
Regardless, we have come up with a report that can have an impact by providing more transparency and accountability for the operations of the fund.
It is reasonably well-known that the pension plan has been underfunded for years, and that the state, in setting a new funding plan, allowed a “funding ramp” in 2011 and then re-set that ramp in 2016, so that funding according to the “90% funded by 2055” target only began in 2020. However, Tobe alleges that “Chicago has consistently underfunded the plan more than the statutory amount, blatantly breaking the law, with no consequences.”
Regarding fees and management, Tobe alleges that the pension fund has “failed to monitor and fully disclose investment fees and expenses” and that “fees and expenses could be 10 times that which they disclose” because the fund’s disclosure “omits dozens of managers and their fees.” He also reports that the Fund claimed that “hundreds of contracts for the investment managers” are exempt from FOIA, and denied him access to the fund’s own analysis of fees. He concludes that “PABF may have over 100 ‘ghost managers’ in funds of funds,” that is, the fund is required to disclose its managers but it fails to do so, even though Tobe has identified them through other sources.
With respect to governance, the fund violates a fundamental aspect of prudent governance because its Chief Investment Officer is not a professional with qualification in the field, but simply a trustee and active-duty policeman, and, what’s more, one who has “22 allegations of misconduct as a police officer including one for bribery/official corruption.” Further, no staff members hold the credential of a CFA charter, another marker of professionalism. Another related governance issue is the use of offshore investments, e.g., in the Cayman Islands, which lack key governance and transparency protections of US-based funds.
The Chicago Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund (PABF) —commonly referred to as the Chicago Police Pension Fund—is one of the worst funded public pension plans in the United States today, with a funding ratio of only 23 percent.
A group of retired and disabled officers, along with widows, has long questioned the trustees and management of the struggling pension. Dissatisfied with the responses they received, the group formed the CPD Pension Board Accountability Group.
Funds were raised to commission an independent forensic audit of the pension and an expert in pensions was retained recently to conduct the review. As Forbes readers will recall, in my recent book, Who Stole My Pension?, I encourage pension stakeholders to band together to fund independent forensic investigations by pension experts of their own choosing—to get a second opinion as to whether the pension fiduciaries and Wall Street “helpers” they have hired to manage investments are doing a good job.
A ransomware gang that hacked the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in April posted personnel records on Tuesday that revealed highly sensitive details for almost two dozen officers, including the results of psychological assessments and polygraph tests; driver’s license images; fingerprints; social security numbers; dates of birth; and residential, financial, and marriage histories.
The operators demanded $4 million in exchange for a promise not to publish any more information and provide a decryption key that would restore the data.
“You are a state institution, treat your data with respect and think about their price,” the operators said, according to the transcript. “They cost even more than 4,000,000, do you understand that?”
“Our final proposal is to offer to pay $100,000 to prevent the release of the stolen data,” the MPD negotiator eventually replied. “If this offer is not acceptable, then it seems our conversation is complete. I think we understand the consequences of not reaching an agreement. We are OK with that outcome.”
Workers’ retirement security has declined in an alarming number of Illinois cities. In 2003, just 21 of 175 cities analyzed had less than 60 cents on hand for every dollar they needed to fund future benefits of their city workers. By 2019, 99 of the 175 cities were below 60 percent funded. A 60 percent funding level is often seen as a point of no return from which pension funds can’t recover.
City taxpayers have increasingly paid more to pensions over the past 16 years, and yet the pension shortfalls they are on the hook for are far larger today. Pension contributions of the 175 cities have nearly quadrupled to $960 million in 2019 from $250 million in 2003, and yet local pension shortfalls still tripled to $11.8 billion, up from $3.4 billion in 2003.
Pension costs as a share of city budgets have doubled, crowding out spending on core government services. City pension contributions as a share of general budgets have doubled to 17 percent in 2019 from 8 percent in 2003.
Most local pension funds have turned upside down – they now have more retirees drawing benefits than active workers contributing. In 2003, only 15 cities had more pensioners drawing benefits than active workers making contributions into the fund. In 2019, that number rose to 112 cities.
California’s total estimated pension liability is something like $1 trillion. To balance its books, Sacramento had to get money from taxpayers in Florida, South Dakota, Utah and, other, better-managed states (through the COVID-19 stimulus) to close the gap.
Whether it will be enough to stop municipal fire departments from bringing private ambulance and medical services “in-house” is yet to be seen. Hopefully, it will — which would be a good thing for taxpayers and people in need.
Otherwise, the pattern of using federal reimbursements for services provided to cover the losses in underfunded public employee pension plans will continue, much to the determinant of taxpayers.
This is a good time to review who will be impacted as state pension data on active participants in the retirement system has just been updated through December, 2020. There are no dates of birth so it is impossible to get an accurate count as some of those members who have between 18 and 25 years of service may already be age 55 but here is my cost estimate anyway.
If half of those eligible decide to retiree on their 50% pension for an extra 3.5 years that would come to an extra billion dollars coming out of the retirement system which is about double what the OLS estimated as the maximum.
The City of Springfield is going to make an extra payment to their growing fire and police pension funds, but this is only going to make a small dent in the overall pension costs.
During the Springfield City Council meeting on Tuesday. Feb. 16, the aldermen voted in favor of making a $589,323 payment to the police and fire pension funds.
The reason they can make this move is because their corporate fund balance was over 20% after closing the books on Fiscal Year 2020 last August, but Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said this is small.