Thursday, June 29, 6000

NOTE: To find the most current posts, please scroll down to the two big red arrows. You can't miss them.

Tuesday, February 15, 4000

STRS Ohio Watchdogs: a public Facebook group you can join

by Cindy Murphy
STRS Ohio Watchdogs monitor the management and investment practices of the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio.
We advocate for prudent and transparent investments, the restoration of the COLA for retired teachers, and the rollback of additional years of service required for active teachers.
This site will provide you with information about the work that is being done by Ohio's active and retired teachers to preserve our retirement benefits. Check back often for updates.
Join our conversation on Facebook. You don't have to be a member of STRS Ohio to join. Everyone who is interested in learning more about the management and investment practices of STRS Ohio is welcome.
Use this link to join our pack on Facebook:.

Sunday, August 27, 3950

Have you joined the Ohio STRS Member Only Forum on Facebook?

If you are a member of STRS Ohio and have a Facebook account, you are eligible to join thousands of others who make up the Ohio STRS Member Only Forum. This is a closed group of retirees and actives who are advocating for the return of our COLA, which, as you no doubt know, your STRS Board SUSPENDED on April 20, 2017. Two of our members, Bob Buerkle and Dean Dennis, filed a class action lawsuit against STRS on May 23, 2019 suing for the reinstatement of our COLA. The text of the lawsuit can be found on this blog. You can go here to join the Forum and sign the petition, already signed by more than 20,000 people, for the return of our COLA: Ohio STRS Member Only Forum

Click image to enlarge

Monday, June 25, 3900

Angel of Grief

Monday, June 24, 3850

Garrison Keillor

Wednesday, May 28, 3800

Items of interest in the Archives: The 2013 STRS Board Election

Many people have been very interested in reading about the irregularities of the 2013 STRS board election. There are many posts related to this topic, beginning the first week of April 2013, after the ballots were mailed to retirees from STRS. You can find them by going to the Archives for this blog, over in the right sidebar, and clicking on dates beginning with April 7, 2013. Dennis Leone announced his candidacy for a retired seat in November, 2012. There is a lot of information about him in the Archives, beginning with November 12, 2012 posts. If you want to read only the best stuff about that infamous election of 2013, go over to the sidebar on the right of where you are now, which is the archives of previous articles on this blog. Scroll down to April 2013. That's where the "interesting" articles begin. You will see many, clear up to the middle of May 2013.5/28/13

Friday, February 27, 3750 what REALLY happened in 2003 that touched off a firestorm at STRS that is still smoldering today? Read it here, from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. (Hint: It ain't over yet!)

More here (Akron Beacon Journal, 2003)

Sunday, April 11, 3700

Thursday, March 10, 3650

To find current, day-to-day posts -- pull your scroll bar down a ways, just below the big red arrows (you can't miss them). Thanks.


Friday, February 24, 3550

Find your state representative and senator here.

Monday, April 29, 3450

I know, it's weird.........

Many posts that appear "at the top" for a while are eventually moved down, where they can be found under their original posting dates. Also, if you are confused by the postdating, this is done to keep these posts up there; otherwise, they drift down when new posts are added. It's a "blog thing" which I have no other way to control. KB

Monday, February 24, 3400

Handy links: Contacts, information and more (short version)
This is an abbreviated version of the original 'Handy links' post.
 Click here to view a more complete list. (Some of it is old.)

STRS Board.....STRS website

Board calendar

E-mail contacts at STRS (old, but some may still work)

Map/directions to STRS, 275 E. Broad St. Columbus, OH 43215

Rich DeColibus' PowerPoint presentation STRS' PBI Program; Does it work?: click December 21, 2008 (blog Archive) and scroll down to December 23 posts.

Popular links; click, then scroll down: , , , ,

Tuesday, February 24, 3350

SPECIAL (must read):

Dennis Leone's INVESTIGATIVE REPORT on STRS: May 16, 2003...Who is Dennis Leone?........(PDF version)...More on Dennis Leone .......(PDF version)
Dennis Leone's STRS Report to ORTA, March 2007
Dennis Leone's Testimony at the Statehouse 9/5/12
The Plain Dealer article that started it all
Historic PBI vote, January 16, 2009

Tuesday, February 23, 3300


Thursday, July 18, 2024

Toledo Blade Editorial: STRS Minnesota meddling Ohio educators fighting to reform the State Teachers Retirement System are facing concentrated government power to dilute their success.

ORTA Staff/Blog

Toledo Blade Editorial
July 18, 2024
STRS’ role in the evolving plan to undermine a Minnesota investigation is just one more example of the need for real reform in Ohio
Since teachers have elected enough board members to gain majority control of STRS, Gov. Mike DeWine and Attorney General Dave Yost have launched a court case to remove two members.
Now a special committee on STRS, created by the Ohio Retirement Study Council, is noodling a plan to combine all state pensions and stack the new board with enough government-appointed members to assure the upper hand permanently.
The Ohio Retirement for Teachers Association kicked over this beehive by hiring famed whistleblower attorney Edward Siedle to examine STRS documents. Mr. Siedle concluded STRS fees and profit shares to Wall Street fund managers were far higher than reported. Ohio reformers want to transition to low-fee index funds because of that report.
Following the high-profile Ohio reform effort a Minnesota teachers group has hired Mr. Siedle for the same mission. A public records release from Minnesota shows Ohio STRS Acting Executive Director Lynn Hoover and Ohio lawyers and lobbyists communicating with their Minnesota counterparts to undermine the impact of the investigation.
STRS leaders were part of a team from the National Education Association, California’s largest public pension, New York City’s pension, the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, the National Council on Teacher Retirement, the National Conference of Public Employee Retirement Systems, the National Institute on Retirement Security, and a coterie of private public relations advisers.
As Rachel Barth, legal and legislative director of the Minnesota Teachers Retirement Association wrote, “TRA’s reputation as a trusted government agency is going to be questioned.” As shown at STRS, a pension breakdown signals failure across many aspects of government.
A cursory look at the Minnesota Teachers Retirement Association leads to the conclusion they’re either a world class pension or they’re cooking the books. Minnesota reported investment fees on the $26.7 billion teacher pension fund of $24.1 million. The teachers fund has a $6.6 billion private equity portfolio that would be expected to pay at least $132 million a year to fund managers. Moreover, a comprehensive study of 54 public pensions from 2008 to 2023 conducted by investment expert Richard Ennis shows fees average 1 percent of assets under management. By that metric, Minnesota Teachers Retirement Association would be expected to pay over a quarter billion dollars a year to fund managers.
The national response from public pension advocacy agencies reflects the crisis these incredibly noteworthy numbers create. Either Minnesota has a special deal with Wall Street paying fees 90 percent under the going rate or an investment board made up of the governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and auditor, has massively massaged the truth.
A long term look at Minnesota’s pension math is just as perplexing. The teachers retirement fund purports to beat a composite index they created by 0.2 percent measured over 1, 5, 10, 20, and 30 years. The odds of that level of consistency over each measure of time are infinitesimal.
STRS’ role in the evolving plan to undermine a Minnesota investigation is just one more example of the need for real reform in Ohio.
Instead, the Ohio political establishment is working to defeat the efforts of beneficiaries attempting to protect their retirement.
It’s shameful but not surprising.
~     ~     ~     ~     ~
STRS Ohio Board members Rudy Fichtenbaum and Wade Steen are incurring legal fees, defending themselves against the lawsuit brought against them by A.G. Dave Yost. ORTA will use donations from the Pension Defense Fund to help them, if needed, pay their legal expenses. They have volunteered their time to support Ohio's teachers. Now it's time for us to show our support for them! Make a donation today to the ORTA Pension Defense Fund.

Join ORTA or renew your membership here.

An important message from Robin Rayfield to ORTA members: A response to recent media reports pertaining to your pension system, STRS Ohio

From Robin Rayfield, Executive Director

Ohio Retirement for Teachers Association
July 18, 2024
Greetings ORTA Members!
There is no scheduled newsletter for July, however, with the recent media reports that have surfaced over the last couple of weeks, our executive committee suggested that ORTA respond.
As you have read, outside of the Toledo Blade, the reporting on matters concerning STRS is slanted in favor of the STRS narrative. This is understandable when you think that Gannet Publishing owns the major newspapers in Ohio. Gannet is also owned by a private equity group (Apollo) that STRS is heavily invested in.
Recent Media Reports
In one recent article the reporter for the Columbus Dispatch referred to ORTA as a ‘dark money group.’ This is so laughable. ORTA has no money that can be used to influence people on any issue. In fact, over the last several elections for STRS seats, ORTA has not spent any money for any candidates. This same reporter that called ORTA a dark money entity has never called ORTA to ask anything about our Pension Defense Fund. If she had asked, we would have provided her with the same information that we provide for our membership on the Pension Defense Fund. Currently, ORTA has raised approximately $80,000 from over 1800 individuals. This is not a ‘dark money entity;’ this is a grassroots entity. Over 900 of the donations are for $25 or less. On the other hand, the politicians that she reports on get mega dollars from dark money entities every year.
As you are bombarded with conflicting information regarding our pension fund it is difficult to know who to believe. For example, STRS reports that it is in the top tier of the pension world with regards to investments. What does that mean? If you are the best of a poorly performing group is that good news? Really, STRS could say we are getting taken to the cleaners, but not as badly as other pensions. Or ‘We are the best of the worst investors in the US.’
Reporters and STRS communications people have attempted to connect ORTA and QED as some sort of partnership. Let’s be clear, ORTA is not formally, nor informally connected with QED from a business perspective. Both principals at QED have helped ORTA to understand the technical aspects of investments. They have pointed out when STRS uses ‘gross of fees’ or ‘net of fees’ when describing investments or helped to understand the complex world of alternative investing.
In another recent article, a former STRS employee made the point that not paying our investment staff bonuses does not free up money to pay retirees a COLA. This is a true statement, however, paying people bonuses to actively manage our portfolios and earn less than a passively managed portfolio that cost hundreds of millions less does not make sense on any level. If a passively managed program of investing costs hundreds of millions less each year, and produces better returns, then the choice is simple. Make more and spend less with passively managed index-based investments.
ORTA has not advocated for any investment company. ORTA has advocated for investigation of index-based strategies that show promise to achieve better returns. Because our system spends more on benefits to retirees than it takes in each year, making the best investment return possible, at the lowest cost is essential.
Action by the Ohio Attorney General and Governor
As you already know, Governor DeWine received a 14-page anonymous letter claiming that Wade Steen and Rudy Fichtenbaum breeched their fiduciary duty when they attempted to ‘steer’ $65 billion towards a company that had no clients, and no track record of successful investment experience. This legal action to remove Fichtenbaum and Steen is a political move to distract any investigation into the corruption taking place at STRS. The facts surrounding this case do not match the claims in the anonymous letter. Here is what is known currently:
1. Rudy and Wade asked the board to hear a presentation on an investment strategy that is referred to as ‘index plus.’ This is currently in use at a pension fund in Ontario, Canada. This fund constantly outperforms STRS (and all other pension funds) and is far less risky. The ask by Steen and Fichtenbaum was to hire an independent firm to vet the strategy. The ask was that the firm hired to vet the strategy was not a current consultant of STRS nor the STRS investment staff as either of these groups would have a conflict of interest. The conflict of interest was obvious in that, if the strategy proved to have merit, the current investment staff and consultants could be replaced.
2. Important to note is that, if the strategy demonstrated that it had the potential to make better returns at a lower cost, an initial pilot test investment of $250 million be made. NOT $65 billion. An investment of $250 million (a great deal of money to be sure) would be made to test the strategy. So where did the STRS staff and consultants produce the $65 billion figure? Why does the media keep saying that the ask was for $65 billion? All you need to do is check the minutes of the meeting and see that the proposal was for $250 million, not $65 billion. After approval by an independent consultant. You may have heard that the audio recordings of the meeting state that Fichtenbaum asked for $65 billion. Dr. Fichtenbaum did use the $65 billion figure in a response to a question asked of him. The question was something like ‘How much money would we have to invest in this strategy to offset the $4 billion shortfall STRS faces each year?’ Rudy calculated that it would take $65 billion invested to offset the shortfall that STRS faces each year. He did not suggest that STRS invest $65 billion into this strategy. The ‘index plus’ strategy would simply be another tool in the investment strategy toolbox.
3. Rudy and Wade are fighting the effort by the A.G. and governor to remove them from the STRS board. ORTA is helping them with legal expenses in their fight with the governor and A.G.
PBI a.k.a. bonus program
The reform majority of the STRS board failed to pass the Performance Based Incentive program at the June STRS board meeting. There were several claims that the investment staff would resign because of this not being passed. For many of the investment staff receiving bonus payments of over $200,000 is common. What is interesting to note is that paying incentives to investment staff is not common in the pension investment industry. In fact, many pensions state that paying incentives (bonuses) encourage investors to take unnecessary risks to earn their bonus. In a paper published by the Warton Pension Research Council STRS ranks in the top 1% of pension compensation. This study found that 75% of pension funds do not pay incentives for performance. Of those that do pay incentives only 1% pay incentives to anyone other than the Chief Investment Officer. The typical CIO bonus is less than $70,000. By comparison, STRS pays the CIO nearly $400,000 in bonus. Even without any PBI STRS is in the top 5% of compensation for the investment staff.
I hope that the information provided here provides our ORTA members with sufficient information to help separate the facts from the opinions with regards to what is taking place at STRS.

Edward Siedle: Toledo Blade Exposes National Effort to Undermine Investigations Into Public Pension Wrongdoing

Recently obtained documents reveal state pension officials across the nation and their industry allies all agree investigations in potential wrongdoing are dangerous.

Edward Siedle,
Pension Warriors
July 18, 2024

The National Education Association, California’s largest public pension, New York City’s pension, the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, the National Council on Teacher Retirement, the National Conference of Public Employee Retirement Systems, the National Institute on Retirement Security, and a coterie of private public relations advisers were all part of national effort to undermine public pension forensic investigations.
Recently obtained pension documents reveal state officials and their industry allies are now calling it a “movement”—one which must be stopped—because forensic investigations pose “very serious risks” for pensions and Wall Street financiers.
(In the coming weeks, we will be publishing all the documents we obtained, with commentary and analysis.)
Read about our Ohio and Minnesota investigations in the Toledo Blade:

David Pepper: False Narratives... on Vance...

And Exactly What Ails Red States

July 18, 2024
The media narrative on JD Vance has been absurd for years. As is the overall narrative about what ails the so-called “rust-belt.”
Both stem from a warped coastal view of the Midwest, looking for simplistic narratives, falling for the ruse. But those false narratives actually do deep damage over the long haul.
On Vance, just as an example: when he moved back to Ohio from San Francisco, the New York Times for some reason let him run this op-Ed, allowing him to frame his move back to the Buckeye State as if it was a patriotic sacrifice. He was giving up so much, he told us.

When I moved back to Ohio right after (the same) law school, I saw it the opposite way. Sure, I could have gone to good jobs in other places as well; I had offers too. But there was great opportunity to be seized right in Cincinnati; I rented an apartment with a perfect view of the Ohio River; I could walk downtown from it; my first job was working for a civil rights hero; I joined the Cincinnati World Affairs Council to keep up my interest in global affairs; and I could decide to go to a Reds game at 6:55 and walk into the stadium by 7:05.
It rocked! Outside of the politics that’s holding our state back, still does.
If moving back home is a chore, don’t sweat it. Stay where you enjoy things, be it San Francisco (also a great place) and now Virginia (where Vance now lives).
But whatever you do, don’t run us down as part of your decision making process.
I mean, look at the cartoon the Times included with Vance’s op-ed. Makes it look like JD was moving to a small town. (Tying to capture the trade-off JD claimed he was making; switching out big-city opportunity for a small town).
That’s ridiculous.
He was actually a venture capitalist moving to Columbus, a modern city and one of the fastest growing in America. He next moved to one of Cincinnati’s nicest neighborhoods.
Many other young people are flocking to Cincinnati, by the way. And Columbus. Despite state-level regressive policies on almost everything, leaders of these cities and communities around them are creating communities young people and young families want to live in (just like I was excited to do), which is why both the cities and surrounding suburbs are growing. Not because people like Vance are sacrificing so much to move to them—but because they actually want to be there!
And as for the small towns in red states that are struggling (and many are), Republicans need to stop fingerpointing and politicking and start taking ownership.
After all, Republicans have run Ohio for decades, almost uninterrupted. Same with so many other states. They gerrymander the legislature to ensure that they stay in power in these places. They are largely the representatives of these very struggling communities.
And firmly in power, as in Ohio, what do they do?
Those state leaders and representatives raid local government funds which these small towns rely on (which forces them to cut services, public safety, and the like), so that the state can hand out tax cuts for wealthy Ohioans who largely live no where near these towns. (Ie. the benefit does not offset the local cuts). And those tax cuts have not even led to the general economic growth they’ve promised.
They hand out private school vouchers that go almost entirely to well-off families in wealthy suburbs to go to private schools they’ve always gone to, while urban and rural schools (which anchor these towns) struggle due to squeezed state funding.
They do the lobbyists’ business in state capitals like Columbus—short-shifting regulations and pushing any costs onto the people and communities—so that whether it’s a rail leak in East Palestine or a well leak in Athens County, small towns pay the price again.
Just like a generation ago, it was the lack of regulation of Big Pharma that sicced pain pill makers and pill mill quacks onto folks in our small towns, devastating them ever since. (By the way, another phony thing about the Vance op-ed: the non-profit he touted turned out to be a sham, siccing a Big Pharma consultant onto rural Ohio as an “addiction specialist”)
On and on and on.
The common denominator of the struggle of these small towns is that they are: 1) largely in states that Republicans have led for years; 2) largely in communities that Republicans directly represent; and are 3) enduring the outcomes of failed Republican policies all that time.
And rather than taking ownership of or accountability for these failures and changing course, Republicans like JD Vance double down on the same policies that have already generated literal and figurative train wrecks in communities all across these states.
Next time Vance is asked about the struggles of Ohio’s towns, don’t let him rail on Biden—data show that Biden policies have actually helped matters—or keep acting blame.
Ask him what Republicans have done so wrong that has led to the paltry results in so many communities. Ask him what should they do differently. Ask him if they should be held accountable.
They’ve been the ones in charge, after all. For his entire lifetime, whether he was enjoying life elsewhere or dropping into Ohio to run for office.
Let’s use Vance’s false narrative to highlight the broader false narrative that has dominated politics for far too long, and plays a role in holding so many communities back.

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Just out (7/13/2024): Chapter 5 of David Pepper's novel "2025"

July 13, 2024

Chapter 5: DOJ Nightmare: Trump's "Revenge," Project 2025 and Presidential Immunity

Project 2025’s weaponization of the DOJ and FBI are dangerous enough. Throw in Trump’s vows for “revenge” and the Court’s recent decision on presidential immunity, and you have a truly lethal combination. A politicized system of justice, harnessed to target political enemies at all levels.

Chapter 5 of “2025,” below, describes how it could play out. Please read and share:

Introduction and Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Now, Onto…

Chapter 5


Capitol Monthly

“Woody Nuxhall”

By Randy Stegman 

Click HERE to read.

Friday, July 12, 2024

Call to Action from ORTA: Please contact the members of the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC). Ask them NOT to change the makeup of the STRS board.


Ohio Retirement for Teachers Association

July 12, 2024

New from the Blog in ORTA

Call to Action!
Representative Phil Plummer, Co Chair of the ORSC STRS Subcommittee, has proposed changing the makeup of the STRS Ohio board. 
Ohio's teachers should be represented by board members who were elected by them and will advocate for them.

“We need retirees input but people need to have logic and common sense.” - Rep. Phil Plummer

Please contact the members of the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC).
Ask them NOT to change the makeup of the STRS board.
ORSC Voting Members
•  Senator Mark Romanchuk: 
•  Representative Phil Plummer: 
•  Representative Beryl Piccolantonio: 
•  Senator Louis Blessing: 
•  Senator Hicks-Hudson: 
•  Representative Adam Bird: 
•  Lora Miller: 
•  Ed Montgomery: 
•  Dr. Anthony Podojil: 
Here is the current makeup of Ohio's pension boards.
•  OP&F: 9 trustees: 4 active, 2 retired, 3 appointed
•  9 trustees: 4 active, 2 retired, 3 appointed
•  11 trustees: 5 active, 2 retired, 3 appointed
•  11 trustees: 6 active, 2 retired, 3 appointed
•  STRS: 11 trustees: 5 active, 2 retired, 4 appointed
STRS Ohio Board members Rudy Fichtenbaum and Wade Steen are incurring legal fees, defending themselves against the lawsuit brought against them by A.G. Dave Yost. ORTA will use donations from the Pension Defense Fund to help them, if needed, pay their legal expenses. They have volunteered their time to support Ohio's teachers. Now it's time for us to show our support for them! Make a donation today to the ORTA Pension Defense Fund
Be the first to know! Click here and scroll down to subscribe to our blog. You'll receive email notifications of new blog posts. 

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Ohio’s public pensions should be free to consider all relevant factors, including ESG, to make informed investment decisions.

Proposed bill to hamstring pensions threatens Ohio’s economic stability and long-term progress

By Tinu Okotore,

Ohio Senate Bill 6 threatens our state’s financial health, economic stability, and long-term progress by prohibiting state pension systems from considering Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors in their investment decisions.
The value of ESG investing
ESG investing allows businesses and investors to consider Environmental, Social, and Governance factors in their decision-making. These criteria are not just trendy buzzwords but are crucial components of long-term economic health and stability. Ignoring these factors can lead to severe financial and social consequences, such as increased climate-related disasters, social unrest, and economic inequality. ESG investing helps identify companies that manage risks effectively and are positioned for sustainable growth, benefiting investors and society.
Debunking the fiduciary duty myth
Proponents of SB 6 argue that ESG considerations conflict with fiduciary duties to maximize returns. This perspective is fundamentally flawed. ESG investing involves recognizing and managing long-term risks and opportunities that traditional financial analysis may overlook. Companies with poor environmental practices face regulatory fines, litigation, and reputational damage, which can negatively impact financial performance. By considering ESG factors, investors can identify companies likely to perform well over the long term, thus fulfilling their fiduciary duty.
Economic benefits of ESG investments
Research consistently shows that ESG-focused investments can achieve competitive returns while managing risk more effectively. Morgan Stanley reported that in 2023 — a year riddled with volatility and recession — funds focused on “environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, across both stocks and bonds, weathered the year better than non-ESG portfolios.” Sustainable funds had a return of 6.9%, nearly double that of traditional funds’ 3.8% rate of return. Ignoring ESG factors can lead to investments in companies that may suffer from future environmental or social liabilities, ultimately harming returns. Ohio’s public pensions, which support millions of retirees, should not be restricted from considering these critical factors.
Climate change: a real financial risk
Critics argue that ESG policies, such as net-zero emissions goals, impose rigid political agendas on businesses. However, climate change is a significant financial risk that cannot be ignored. The increased frequency of extreme weather events, regulatory changes, and shifting market dynamics pose substantial business risks. By incorporating climate considerations into investment strategies, fiduciaries are not engaging in political activism but are fulfilling their duty to manage long-term risks.
Enhancing transparency and accountability
Contrary to the claims made by SB 6 proponents, ESG investing enhances transparency and accountability. Companies that disclose their ESG practices are more likely scrutinized and held accountable by investors and the public. This transparency improves corporate governance and ethical business practices, benefiting investors and society.
Public pensions: balancing returns and social impact
Public pensions are not just about maximizing returns; they are also about ensuring the financial security of retirees while considering the broader impact on society. By restricting ESG investments, SB 6 undermines the ability of Ohio’s public pensions to invest in a way that aligns with the values and long-term interests of Ohioans.
Parallels with the Chevron doctrine overruling
The recent overruling of the Chevron doctrine is reminiscent of broader attacks on ESG and responsible investing initiatives. Just as the decision undermines the authority of federal agencies to enforce critical regulations, the push against ESG frameworks seeks to limit the factors that businesses can consider in their strategic planning. Both movements are driven by a desire to reduce regulatory oversight and shift decision-making power away from specialized agencies and enterprises to less experienced or ideologically driven entities.
SB 6 is a step backward for Ohio. It ignores the growing evidence that ESG considerations are essential for managing risk and achieving sustainable returns. Ohio’s public pensions should be free to consider all relevant factors, including ESG, to make informed investment decisions.
Read this article online here
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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