Saturday, November 28, 2020

Governor DeWine appoints Wade Steen to a second 4-year term on the STRS Board

From Wade Steen
November 28, 2020

Hi Kathie I wanted to let you know its official and I will be serving another 4 years on the STRS Board. My Mother-in- Law administered the oath of office to me yesterday with assistance from my daughter. I posted a few pictures on FB. I am guessing there are a few people that aren’t happy about me being around 4 more years, but that is not who I’m appointed to serve and represent.
I hope you can take a moment to thank Governor DeWine for reappointing me.
Best always

To Wade Steen
November 28, 2020

Wade --
Thank you so much for sharing your good news. The handful of us who have just found out (so far) about your reappointment to the STRS Board are over the moon with your announcement! 
Congratulations to you for being assigned to another four years on the Board -- and to US for the good fortune of HAVING you there! It's been YEARS since we've seen your kind of truly committed leadership (since Dennis Leone) on behalf of the STRS membership, active and retired. Your job won't be easy, but you can rest assured we will be behind you every step of the way!
Thank you, Wade Steen! You are a gleaming ray of sunshine in a room that's been dark for a long, long time.

To Governor Mike DeWine
November 28, 2020 

Dear Governor DeWine,
I know I speak for many in thanking you for appointing Wade Steen to another four years on the Board of our State Teachers Retirement System, STRS Ohio. 
At a time when STRS has been touted repeatedly (by them) as one of the most outstanding pension systems in the country, they have drastically reduced the benefits of the STRS members, most notably completely eliminating our COLA as promised in the ORC. All this while also requiring greater contributions and longer working years from our active teachers. Where all this money is going is anyone's guess, as we are not seeing it. 
Wade Steen has demonstrated his full commitment to restoring to Ohio's teachers, retired and active, what they have worked hard for all their lives and what is rightfully theirs. I have no doubt that his strong leadership on the STRS Board will make a big difference in those lives. For this we are extremely grateful, and thank you for giving him another four years to make things right for the dedicated educators, past and present, of our great state. 
Thank you, Governor DeWine!
Kathie Bracy
Retired Ohio teacher

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Rita Walters, STRS Board Chair: Words of Wisdom? You be the judge.

 This is in fine print; I hope you can read it. Please click to enlarge.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Edward Siedle: Ohio Retired Teachers Push For Forensic Investigation Of $80 Billion Teachers Pension 

Ohio Retired Teachers Push For Forensic Investigation Of $80 Billion Teachers Pension
Edward Siedle 

Nov 23, 2020
The Board of Directors of the Ohio Retired Teachers Association (ORTA) recently voted to raise funds for a forensic audit of the $80 billion State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio.
ORTA says the decision did not come easy.
The State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS) is one of the nation’s largest retirement systems, serving more than 495,000 active, inactive and retired Ohio public educators.
Throughout ORTA’s 73-year history of advocacy for the retired educators, the association says it has strived to “keep peace” with STRS and avoid controversy. The days of peaceful coexistence may be over.
The association believes the time is right for a deep-dive into management of the pension fund. The benefits promised to STRS retirees have been steadily reduced since 2015, and there is no planned return of these promised benefits, says ORTA.
STRS is in the best financial shape of the 5 public pension systems in Ohio, yet STRS retirees have gone several years without any promised increase in benefits. Some retirees have gone 8 years without an increase in retirement benefits.
The loss of a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) despite being promised by STRS and guaranteed in Ohio law at the time of retirement has no end in sight. When pressed for answers by ORTA, STRS leadership simply says “STRS will only consider providing any COLA after the pension system has reached a funding level of 85%.”
The problem is, as ORTA notes, in over 100 years of existence STRS has only been at funding level of 85% or above a handful of times and has not been at 85% or more in the past decade. At the October STRS meeting the financial consultant for STRS indicated that STRS is not likely to reach the 85% funding threshold for many years.
Since I was asked by ORTA whether I would be willing to conduct the proposed forensic investigation, I recently posed the following questions to STRS:
1. Does the pension acknowledge that the participants have a duty, or a right, to investigate potential mismanagement which may undermine their retirement security? 
2. Does the pension believe that a forensic investigation by an nationally recognized expert in pensions—a second opinion—may be beneficial to the pension?
3. Will the pension cooperate in the investigation?
4. Will the pension provide all documents requested by the investigator?
5. Will the pension waive any potentially applicable fees related to document requests, given that the investigation is funded by participants?
6. Will the pension pay for or contribute to the investigation?  
I received a longwinded reply from the pension which dodged most of my questions but did indicate STRS will comply with Ohio law when responding to records requests and generally does not charge fees related to record requests, but that would depend on the scope of the request. Whether STRS will willingly hand over all the contracts with the pension’s investment managers, including those related to the high-risk, high-cost alternative hedge, venture capital, and private equity funds, remains to be seen.
The pension also detailed its oversight practices which, in my opinion raise as many questions and concerns as they seek to address.
There is no question in my mind that a forensic investigation of the massive state pension will reveal deficiencies which, if properly addressed, will improve the management and sustainability of the fund. Retired state teachers who are dependent upon the pension for their retirement security should have an expert of their own choosing, to review investment selection, advisory fees and expenses, disclosure practices, conflicts of interest involving vendors and potential violations of law. After all, it’s their retirement savings at risk.  
The pension should welcome a second opinion by a qualified expert and happily pay for it. All pension stakeholders—taxpayers and participants—can only benefit when transparency and accountability are enhanced.
For more about pensions and crowdfunding forensic investigations, see Who Stole My Pension? How to Stop the Looting.

'Ohio STRS - Tainted Love' By The Colasaurus

View the video here: 

Click images to enlarge 

Robin Rayfield: Report on the November 2020 STRS Board Meeting

Report on the November 2020 STRS Board Meeting

By Dr. Robin Rayfield, Executive Director of the Ohio Retired Teachers Association
(From the November 2020 ORTA Newsletter)
The STRS Board met on Thursday November 19, 2020. The meeting itself was what the STRS Board refers to as their Educational and Planning Meeting. The board takes this time to:
• Plan for the 5-year actuarial review
• Review their fiduciary responsibilities
• Review ethics responsibilities
• Hear from their paid actuary firm (Callan) about long term planning
• Conduct a board self-assessment
As you might expect, the discussion was robust and many board members that do not speak were engaged. Mr. [Wade] Steen (appointed member) remained focused on ‘restoration of COLA’. Mr. Steen constantly asks ‘tough’ questions of the STRS staff and is vocal in his opinion that until the STRS system is able to meet its obligations, there can be no relaxation on the part of the STRS staff. Several charts and graphs were presented showing the level of funding of our pension system. Unfortunately, none of these materials showed any evidence that retirees will see a COLA, either in the near term or long range.
There was considerable discussion on the ‘performance incentive pay program’. The system for paying our investment staff the large ‘bonuses’ that they receive each year is very complicated. Apparently, these people can receive a bonus, even though they did not meet the benchmark in the policy approved by the board. If, for example, the individual did not make their benchmark this year, but they did meet the benchmark in a previous year, or if the total fund reaches a benchmark he or she may still receive their bonus.
Again, the system for calculating these performance incentives is very complicated and although I listen very carefully, I am unsure of just how these incentives are calculated. One thing I have observed, however, is that the investment staff always receives an incentive bonus. Other board members were asking appropriate questions during the discussion, as well. I am optimistic that the questions asked will lead to a better understanding for everyone regarding the incentive pay program at STRS.
Forensic Audit
As many ORTA members are already aware, ORTA is currently collecting donations to pay the expenses to Benchmark Financial to engage in a forensic audit of the STRS pension system. As we have previously communicated, the decision to attempt this was not an easy one. But after reviewing the circumstances associated with the STRS pension system, we felt it was time to get an independent review of what is going on with our pension system. Some of the important data points that lead ORTA to this decision include:
• Retirees are not receiving what was promised and guaranteed by law. We have gone anywhere from
5 to 6 years without receiving the promised level of benefits.
• Active teachers are currently paying in 40% more than older retirees paid. Coupled with having to work between 5 to 8 more years beyond the previously required 30 years, this is a significant burden placed upon our active fellow educators.
• Projections from STRS indicate that there will be no increase in retiree benefits for 15 to 20 years, despite the promise made to retirees at the time of their retirement.
• Meanwhile, employees at STRS continue to receive base pay increases and investment staff receive ‘performance incentive pay’ even though STRS is not achieving its assumed rate of return.
Therefore, ORTA has taken on the challenge of raising $75,000 through donations from a variety of sources. ORTA is asking ORTA members to contribute to the Forensic Audit. We are also asking for and receiving donations from non-ORTA member retirees of STRS and from many active STRS members. Local chapters of ORTA are also sending in contributions.
Please check out the link in this newsletter to get details on how you can donate to the forensic audit. So far, (18 days into the donation drive) ORTA has topped $19,000 in collected contributions! By the time you receive this newsletter, we could be on the way to $20,000! Please consider donating to the Forensic Audit. If every ORTA member that received this newsletter contributed $15 we would make our goal and get answers to questions we have about our pension system.

Mario Iacone: Why an external forensic audit of STRS?

There has not been an outside independent audit for many many years. if ever.
The Independent Auditors hired by STRS make their report according to the information given them by STRS.
Will show how secure our future paychecks are. Will also show that our future paychecks are not very secure if that is the case.
Will show areas of funding that can be used to restore our COLA, if they exist.
Will show if it is feasible to restore the COLA in some form.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
web page counter
Vermont Teddy Bear Company