Saturday, October 16, 2021

Podcast: Watchdog Ted Siedle is exposing one of the biggest Wall Street heists in American history

 Podcast: The Secret Wealth Transfer

Watchdog Ted Siedle is exposing one of the biggest Wall Street heists in American history.


Steven Foreman: Aspiring candidate for STRS Board

From Steven Foreman

Facebook - Ohio STRS Member Only Forum

October 16, 2021

Hello! I thank you for your questions. I am currently organizing and working on biographical information to share. However, I Do believe I can answer your questions with the goal in mind of transparency so you know who I am. I hope this helps for the time being.

I am an active STRS member with 30 years of service. Like many, I went to sleep one evening retiring at 52 and then woke up the next day with a retirement age of 58. I taught ELA for 5 years at Tri-Valley High School in Dresden Ohio. At the same time, I taught Communications and Technical Writing part-time at Zane State College as a way to pay for my education resulting in my M.Ed. in Educational Administration and my Principal's License. I then secured my first job as an assistant HS/MS principal in Northridge Local Schools near Johnstown, Oh.

During that time, I completed my Assistant Superintendent and Superintendent license coursework and secured those certifications. The next year, I was offered an elementary principalship position in Zanesville City Schools. During my time at Zanesville, I have served as the principal of 4 elementary schools, the Director of Continuous improvement, Title One Director, and now I am the Assistant Superintendent. I am not certain of the endorsements that I will be seeking. I plan to lean upon my working relationships and connections as an elected city councilman for the City of Zanesville, Reading Recovery of North America Board Member, Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators Zone 9 Representative, and Regional Prevention Specialist for the Ohio Children's Trust Fund.  

I do not want to simply seek an endorsement from individuals or associations to gain the following of their membership. Instead, I want to make my "ask" more of an invitation to rally around the injustice and indifference that one of Ohio's hardest-working professions has experienced at the hands of those who only wish to line their own pockets.

Ted Siedle’s The High Cost of Secrecy is, sadly, no surprise at all to me. It affected me. At the same time that retirees were experiencing a loss of promised benefits, active teachers saw an increase of 40 percent in their contributions to STRS. Active teachers also witnessed an increase in the number of years required to receive full retirement benefits. These changes resulted in many teachers paying more, working longer, and not receiving the level of benefits previously promised. Therefore, I am working until 58... not 52 as promised. Seems like all of which class-action lawsuits are made.  

John Curry’s, Wade Steen’s, and Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum’s numerous charts, graphs, and other evidence of fiduciary irresponsibility also fail to surprise me. Their data shows a complete indifference on the part of STRS to even acknowledge the impact of their actions, let alone set out to harm its membership. They are receiving bonuses for work that is resulting in NO GAIN for its members. I would like to remind them all that they work for us, because without their profiting off the backs of hard-working educators, STRS employees would have nothing- it is that simple. 

My goal of being an STRS board member is simple. I refuse to look into the eyes of my mother, an 83 year-old retired second grade teacher, or any of the other numerous family and friends who have worked in one of the most demanding jobs in our society- today and yesterday- knowing that they are being robbed for heated sidewalks, privatized parking, exorbitant meals, personal travel, unnecessary artwork, and ridiculous leases throughout the country believing that I can bring these thieving cowboys to justice but instead choosing to do nothing.  

My critics can claim I don't stand a chance, but I believe I do because I do not carry a rubber stamp and believe that my accomplishments and service to education in my career can serve as a disturbance to the status quo: that is the beginning to much-needed paradigm shifting. Every employee of STRS, moving forward, must EARN their pay. I queried the salary of "Nick" who I was directed to via the STRS switchboard for information on applying to be a board member. I don't know why he has never contacted me, but I do know that as an employee of the communications department, his salary exceeds mine.

I am finished with the excuses and demand action. I want to know WHY bonuses are routinely given to underperforming employees. I want to base evaluation on cost-saving measures as well as investment portfolios. I am not an accountant, please be clear on this matter. But I wish everyone to understand that the board members do not HAVE to be. Instead, they hold the fiduciary responsibility to approve the employment of those who can achieve at high levels for our membership. An important part of that is overseeing the evaluations of employees over time.  

As an assistant superintendent, I have never held the position of 7th grade biology teacher, but I certainly assure you that I know how to hire and evaluate whether they are serving the needs of students in my middle school. That is why school boards do not have the requirement that all (any) board members hold any experience or expertise in education, administration, food service, transportation, etc. Instead, they determine that needs are not being met and act. It does not take a person with financial education to see that while STRS employees have benefited from inflated salaries and bonuses, membership has been stripped of promised benefits and opportunities.  

I work closely with the ODE as the federal program manager for my city school district where I control the federal finances of the district as well as three non-publics. Further biographical data will share my duties as they relate to finances. I have also served on certified and classified negotiations and participated in the sale of bonds on Wall Street to save our district's residents many tax dollars.  

The problem, my friends, is really quite simple from a 30,000 foot view: 1. Nobody is successfully guarding the henhouse. 2. Membership is not respected. 3. We need to work to disrupt the status quo. and 4. We all need a VOICE at the table. I will do my best and I fear I will not always succeed, but I want to try. I have been told that my various efforts on a myriad of projects were pointless at several times throughout my career. But in retrospect I have to smile, because I now (at 53) realize that was being said to me by those who feared the change I was suggesting the most.  

If you deem me less qualified than someone else, then please know that I respect your decision. Truly. Just please know that my heart has led me to this decision to try to enact change. This is about ALL of us. Most importantly, THANK YOU for the work you do and the work you have done. I was only a classroom teacher for 5 years... but that was long enough to KNOW THAT TEACHERS CHANGE LIVES. You do not deserve what has happened to you. At all. Thank you all for your time and consideration. Much more is on the way.

Letter to The Lima News: STRS in need of oversight

From Linda Morrow

Posted October 16, 2021

I am a retired teacher from Lima and I am very concerned about the lack of oversight of the State Teacher Retirement System (STRS) board. There has not been a fiduciary audit in over 14 years. Ohio law requires one every 10 years.

STRS members are so upset with the management of STRS that they raised $75,000 of their own money for a forensic audit conducted by Edward Seidle. The findings were 121 pages long and finds that STRS shades data to present a false light on performance and ignored audit recommendations that would have protected the pension from looting by fund managers and undeserved bonuses to mediocre investment employees.
All Ohio pensions are endangered by the Ohio Retirement Study Councils (Chaired by Rep. Rick Carfagna) failure to perform required audits. Other findings, STRS overstates performance and understates fees and expenses. They did not implement the findings of their last audit in 2006, such as adding additional auditors. They refuse to be transparent in their investments. One alternative investment, Panda Power lost STRS over a half a billion dollars. That information took three years to be revealed.
In addition they have broken a promise given to their retirees. We were promised a 3% cost of living increase. I believe the last one was given in 2015. They claim they do not have enough funds. Yet, they recently approved over $6.7 million of performance bonuses to the STRS investment staff.
STRS has limited the speaking time of retirees at meetings, the number of people who can attend meetings, closed their cafeteria to the public on days of meetings and limited the available space to park in their 5 level garage to only the first floor on days of meetings.
Linda Morrow

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Edward ('Ted') Siedle, Marc Dann and Robin Rayfield speak at ORTA-sponsored conference October 13, 2021

View the video here: 

Photos, top to bottom: 1. Ted Siedle  2. Marc Dann  3. Robin Rayfield and Ted Siedle. 4. Some attendees, including Dean Dennis, Rob Walters, Marc Dann, John Damschroder (face partially  hidden) and others.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

John Damschroder: Answers needed to 'trust but verify'


John Damschroder: Answers needed to 'trust but verify'

Fremont News-Messenger
October 13, 2021
John Damschroder
Guest columnist

Apparently fortunes are turning at the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS). 

After getting pounded in the press, first here at the Fremont News-Messenger, and shortly thereafter on the website of NBC news and the editorial page of the Toledo Blade, all over the failings of high cost alternative investments, documented by Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) lawyer-turned-whistleblower Edward Siedle in a report funded by retired teachers, STRS Executive Director William Neville was happy to share news of 45% gains in the fiscal year ended June 30 for the alternative portfolio. 

Neville told retired teachers gathered for a presentation last week in Findlay that the $11 billion Private Equity portfolio returned 65% last year, after fees, expenses and the profit sharing deal called carried interest was paid to the hired fund managers.

'Good news' angered retired teachers

Interestingly, this good news did nothing but anger the retired teachers who see the fund managers STRS selects make millions and the STRS investment staff that selects them earn hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonus compensation while the 3% annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) owed to teachers has been unpaid since 2017. The Siedle Report concluded underperformance by the alternative investments has cost STRS more than enough to pay the annual COLA.

Siedle titled his report “The High Cost of Secrecy,” claiming the lack of transparency on both alternative investment holdings and fees is behind returns that seriously lag the performance of a broad-based index such as the Russell 3000. Maybe with good news to share STRS would provide details. Exactly how much did a 65% gain add to the fund, exactly how much did the outside managers make from the carried interest payments and specifically which investments powered these fabulous returns? Like Reagan with Gorbachev, trust but verify is my policy, however, STRS won’t answer those questions.

Inaction is contagious in Columbus. In June, Fremont native and STRS Board member  Wade Steen released a letter seeking transparency counsel be appointed for him by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, so the certified public accountant (CPA) appointed by Gov. Mike DeWine could perform his fiduciary responsibilities. 

In August, that Steen letter, detailing 10 aspects of STRS financial records that appear to show investment expenses shaved so as to alter performance reports and pay $7.8 million in bonuses to STRS staff, went to the Special Investigative Unit in State Auditor Keith Faber’s office. So far there has been no action from the attorney general or the auditor of state.

This morning, Oct.13, the Ohio Retired Teachers Association (ORTA) is trying to keep the STRS pension performance issue alive, with a video presentation from their Columbus headquarters by Siedle and pension expert Chris Tobe, author of the book “Kentucky Fried Pensions.”    

Tomorrow, Thursday, Oct. 14, the Ohio Retirement Study Council, slammed hard in the Siedle Report for failure to perform its legal duty to conduct fiduciary and actuarial audits on the five public pension funds every 10 years, meets to hear the investment performance report from their consultant, RVK Inc. 

Reports claim Ohio pensions are well managed

RVK reports Ohio’s pensions are well managed. It’s the same message Aon Hewitt delivered upon release of its fiduciary audit showing the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System overpays alternative investment managers $223.4 million a year, despite the assistance of alternative investment consultants, Aon Hewitt.

The normal, adversarial, legal combat to determine the truth between two diametrically opposed positions is closed to all those covered by Ohio’s pensions because the state has sovereign immunity. In a new development, the SEC is asking questions about private equity fees with subpoena’s to the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) and with testimony to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, chaired by Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, indicating the funds should expect scrutiny on conflicts of interest and nondisclosure of fees.

In his most recent Forbes column, Siedle notes the import of the SEC’s new interest in the relationship between public pensions and private equity funds and concludes all the SEC has to do is follow the leads uncovered by the Ohio teachers. It would also be a good idea to send Senator Brown an email and remind him this is a voting issue.

John Damschroder, a Fremont native who worked in Gov. George Voinovich’s administration, writes about business and economic development in Ohio.

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