Friday, May 28, 2021

Dean Dennis and Bob Buerkle meet with Representatives Kelly, Grendell and others regarding bills that would impact all five pension systems

From Cindy Murphy

May 28, 2021
Dean Dennis and Bob Buerkle have talked to, met with, and advised Representative Brigid Kelly and
Representative Diane Grendell and other Ohio legislators regarding H.B. 514, H.B. 515, H.B. 516, and H.B. 530 which, if passed, will impact all of Ohio's public pension systems.
Rep. Brigid Kelly and Rep. Diane Grendell have introduced four bills regarding Ohio's public pension systems.
H. B. 514: Require the state retirement systems to publicly broadcast board meetings.
H.B. 515: Require the boards of the state retirement systems to disclose certain financial information regarding alternative investments.
H.B. 516: Regarding the prohibition against the state retirement systems doing business with a former state retirement system employee, officer, or board member.
H.B. 530: Regards state retirement system fiduciary duties/fees/pay.
How can you help?
Contact your representatives and ask them to support these bills.

John Curry: The "Cadillac of retirement systems" has now turned into a Yugo!

From John Curry

May 28, 2021
STRS FLASHBACK - 3 DECADES AGO - The "Cadillac of retirement systems" has now turned into a Yugo!
Pictured below is a 1990 Cadillac DeVille. Also pictured below is a 1990 letter from Buck Consultants stating that Ohio STRS had "one of the most competitive pension benefits programs for teachers in the nation!"
I will give STRS some credit....we still have a luxurious palace with a parking garage paved with "paver bricks" to park this vintage Caddy in, don't we? The only problem now is that, thanks to mismanagement of our funds, we retirees can only afford a used Yugo!
P.S. For the STRS Associates however.....STRS is STILL the retirement system with the "most comprehensive benefits in the nation," isn't it? Have you hugged your bonus today? They have!

.....and today we have

Robin Rayfield reports on STRS News, the Forensic Audit and The STRS Board Election

From the May, 2021 ORTA Newsletter
May 28, 2021
By Dr. Robin Rayfield, Executive Director
The STRS Board met on May 20, 2021. As expected, there was significant discussion on the Performance Based Incentives Program (investment bonuses program). The program is very complex and involves measures against performance in 1 year and a 5-year performance and measure. One thing seemed to be clear to me… STRS employees clearly understand the PBI program and at least some of the board members do not. The board did approve a PBI program for 2022 with Board member Wade Steen voting no on the motion. All other members voted yes.
Forensic Audit
Mr. Siedle’s work is coming along. He has learned a great deal about the investment program at STRS and some of what he has learned is troubling. STRS is not cooperating with Mr. Siedle’s work. Specifically, STRS refuses to provide public records that show how much of our retirement resources are invested in each of the alternative investments, nor how much those investments are worth at the present time. STRS is not being transparent with the information on where our money is invested and how well those investments are doing. In fact, Mr. Siedle is convinced that the only way to shed light on these investments is through the courts. You can see a video of the press conference Mr. Siedle and his lawyer Marc Dann held to announce the legal action against STRS lack of transparency at the ORTA YouTube Channel.
STRS Elections
STRS elections resulted in one new board member being elected. Rudy Fichtenbaum received the most votes of the retirees that were on the ballot. Bob Stein received the second most votes and was also elected for a 4-year term beginning in September of this year

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Alumni Talk: Ted Siedle Explains "Who Stole My Pension?"

Bard College at Simon's Rock

Jun 12, 2020

Bard College at Simon’s Rock and OLLI at BCC jointly present Forbes contributor Edward "Ted" Siedle to discuss his new book, Who Stole My Pension?: How You Can Stop the Looting. Ted, a Simon’s Rock alumnus, is nationally recognised as an authority on pensions and investment management matters. In 2017, he secured the largest Security and Exchange Commissions whistleblower award in history and in 2018, the largest Commodity Futures Trade Commission award in history.

Joining Ted for the online conversation will be Chris Tobe, a leading pension investment consultant and author of four books and dozens of articles on transparency and corruption in pensions and investments. Chris is a former member of the Kentucky state pension board. Says Siedle, "as a state pension trustee and whistleblower who contacted the SEC about mismanagement at the nation’s worst funded pension, he knows plenty about pension and investment shenanigans."

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

STRS sued for unredacted reports needed for forensic audit 

Lawsuit seeks unredacted reports from Ohio State Teachers about alts investments

By Rob Kozlowski

Pensions & Investments

May 25, 2021

  A lawsuit was filed in the Ohio Supreme Court to force the $89.5 billion Ohio State Teachers Retirement System, Columbus, to release unredacted reports related to the pension fund's alternative investments.

  The writ of mandamus complaint was filed May 21 by Edward Siedle against the pension fund and CEM Benchmarking Inc., seeking unredacted reports related to the pension fund's alternative investment management fees, costs and expenses.

  Mr. Siedle is an attorney and president of Benchmark Financial Services Inc., which was hired by the Ohio Retired Teachers Association in October to perform a forensic audit on the teachers retirement system.

  According to the court filing, Mr. Siedle requested records in February for all reports and analysis produced by CEM Benchmarking related to alternative investments, and received five investment cost effective analysis reports prepared by CEM Benchmarking dated from 2015 to 2019, which included heavily redacted information. The court filing said CEM Benchmarking informed Benchmark Financial Services the redacted information was related to proprietary information it had classified as trade secrets in its auditing methodology.

  In a May 7 phone interview, Robin Rayfield, executive director of ORTA, said the pension fund "wants to share information that paints them in a good light and absolutely does not share anything that puts them in a bad light, so it's terrible that we have to sue our own pension system to know where our money is invested."

Read the rest of the article here

Monday, May 24, 2021

VIDEO: Advocate Attorneys News Conference May 24, 2021 (STRS stakeholders, hang onto your seat!)

From Cindy Murphy

May 24, 2021
VIDEO: Advocate Attorneys News Conference May 24, 2021
Click on the link below to watch this news conference with Advocate Attorneys regarding the lawsuit filed against STRS Ohio regarding the release of public records requested by Ted Siedle for the forensic audit. (30.49 min)

Cindy Murphy on why the big Ohio newspapers are not reporting on what's going on at STRS

From Cindy Murphy

May 24, 2021
Now we know why the Columbus Dispatch, Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Canton Repository, and Dayton Daily News won't report on any of this. They are all owned by Gannett, which was financed by a $1.8 billion loan from Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm. Who invests in Apollo Global Management? "Many of America’s biggest public pension funds." (US Federal Judge Kevin Castel). From the STRS Ohio Minutes for the Board meeting on September 17, 2020, between 09/01/2020 and 09/30/2020, STRS Ohio purchased 20,377 shares of Apollo Global Management, Inc. for $921,427.56. This rabbit hole keeps getting deeper and darker...

STRS, 'the Cadillac of retirement systems'? Better think again!

From John Curry

May 24, 2021
Please read the fine print! We were told that STRS is "the Cadillac of retirement systems" and that our "best and brightest" are at work protecting our pension system. Well.....let's take a closer look at that very same fine print that I have highlighted below.
This is a two page report made available to the Board at their May 20, 2021 meeting. It summarizes information that was presented to this same board at their March 2021 meeting! This seemed to fly "under the radar" and I was not aware of the seriousness of this situation until I "read the fine print." This ought to scare the hell out of ALL STRS STAKEHOLDERS! Friends...we need a major shakeup at STRS! You read the fine print and you tell me what YOU think! And....we wonder why STRS doesn't leave recorded board meetings, and their related literature, on their website for more than ONE MONTH! WHAT ABOUT TRANSPARENCY? All of this at a time when the STRS Board at the May 2021 meeting, by a vote of 10-1, APPROVED STAFF BONUSES??? Give me a break!
P.S. YOU paid for this report...YOU deserve to know what is in it!

STRS doesn't know the cost of all their investments; sued for hiding "trade secrets"

Lawsuit filed to force teachers' pension records 
The Blade
COLUMBUS — A lawsuit filed with the Ohio Supreme Court accuses the pension fund for teachers of hiding behind “trade secrets” when it comes to complying with an outside forensics audit financed by its members.
The litigation, likely just the first of a series, asks the high court to order the 500,000-member State Teachers Retirement System to turn over un-redacted documents related to investment earnings, fees paid to outside money managers, and comparisons of the system's performance with similar systems across the country. 
The lawsuit specifically targets reports from Toronto-based CEM Benchmarking, Inc., a consultant hired by STRS to conduct an annual cost effectiveness analysis. The filing contends that information supplied by CEM was heavily redacted to protect what it claims is proprietary information.
“We know already...that STRS staff does not know the costs of all the investments that they have made,” said Ted Siedle, president of Benchmark Financial Services and a former Securities Exchange Commission attorney who was hired by the Ohio Retired Teachers Association to conduct the forensic audit.
“They are incapable of telling CEM Benchmarking, Inc., what those costs are,” he said. “Therefore, CEM Benchmark is using certain guesstimates or estimates. In my opinion—and I believe it's well settled law—that the fiduciaries of a pension fund must know, must monitor the investment costs to determine them to be reasonable. If they don't even know what they are, they clearly cannot have fulfilled their fiduciary duty.”
Read the rest of the article here. 
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