Friday, March 18, 2022

Rudy Fichtenbaum: It's our money. Let's stop sending it to Wall Street

From Rudy Fichtenbaum

March 18, 2022

STRS Board approves one-time COLA for retirees and eases those lousy restrictions they had placed on active teachers


March 18, 2022
Retirement Board Approves Benefit Plan Improvements that Benefit Both Active and Retired Educators
At the March meeting of the State Teachers Retirement Board, the board approved a set of much anticipated benefit plan improvements that have been in the planning and review stages for the past several months. The changes benefit both active and retired members of the system. The board’s actuarial consultant, Cheiron, is required by law to evaluate proposed benefit changes and they determined that the approved changes will not materially impair the fiscal integrity of the system.
Following the vote, Board Chair Robert A. McFee thanked his fellow board members for their thoughtful deliberation and noted that future benefit enhancements will be evaluated each year going forward. “This is just the first step in the right direction,” said McFee. He indicated the board will continue to keep the long-term sustainability of the pension fund as its primary goal, but will also look for the opportunity to make future benefit enhancements for active and retired members as the financial condition of the fund allows.
The approved changes take effect on July 1, 2022, and include:
  • A one-time 3% cost-of-living increase (COLA) will be paid to eligible benefit recipients. The COLA will be implemented as applied under current Ohio statute — that is:
    • An increase of 3% of base benefit will be added to the monthly payment in fiscal year 2023 for benefit recipients who began receiving benefits on June 1, 2018, or earlier, and will apply to future monthly payments.
    • The date of the increase is the anniversary date of retirement, which always falls on the first of the month. For example, any teacher who retired effective July 1 (2017 or earlier) will receive a COLA on July 1, 2022. A teacher who retired effective June 1 (2018 or earlier) will receive a COLA on June 1, 2023.
    • Members who retired July 1, 2018, or later are not eligible for a COLA at this time (must have received benefits for 60 months to be eligible for COLA).
  • For active members, elimination of the age 60 requirement for retirement age and service eligibility that was set to take effect in 2026. Now, the final change to the phased-in age and service requirements will be made Aug. 1, 2023, when 35 years of service will be required for an unreduced retirement.
STRS Ohio will soon share with each individual retiree who is eligible to receive a COLA when they can expect their cost-of-living increase to be in their monthly benefit check (the anniversary month of retirement).
The motion passed by the board also signals the Retirement Board’s intent to review benefits again, no later than spring 2023, to evaluate whether additional enhancements are possible in accordance with the laws in effect at that time.

Words of renewed commitment from Joe Lupo, founder of Ohio STRS Member Only Forum whose membership continues to grow steadily, currently numbering 24,000 plus

Joe Lupo, on Facebook

March 18, 2022

Today marks the first day of our renewed commitment to fight for those changes necessary to STRS that will meet the needs of All members, both active and retired.  
Serving and protecting STRS members must be, and always should be the #1 priority of the Board.  It is no longer fashionable, nor will it be acceptable for them to treat us as second class citizens or as an afterthought!

Public Comments at the March 2022 STRS Board Meeting

Special thanks to Cindy Murphy; you can listen here

STRS Ohio Board Meeting: March 17, 2022
NBC4 Columbus was there!
Many thanks to the following teachers who addressed the STRS Board today!
  • Julie Sellers
  • Elizabeth Jones
  • Dan MacDonald
  • Elaine Henderly
  • Carol DP
  • Suzanne Laird
  • Dean Dennis
You can also click on the following link to hear the speeches:

Thursday, March 17, 2022

STRS Board Chair Rob McFee VASTLY understates STRS loss in Russian investments; Rudy Fichtenbaum, as always, gives us the TRUE figure, and it isn't pretty!!

From John Curry

March 17, 2022

Remember when OEA's Rob McFee said that our loss in Russian investments was in the neighborhood of $50 Million? Well....Rudy Fichtenbaum does. Rudy estimated that we lost around $144 Million in Russian investments. 

Today, at the STRS Board meeting we found out THE REAL TRUTH.....WE LOST OVER $200 Million in Russian investments!!!!!

Below is a Rudy Fichtenbaum post from March 5. Friends, our "best and brightest" just screwed us out of lots more money! 


Rudy Fichtenbaum

To Rob McFee on FB

March 5, 2022

Rob McFee, prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, STRS had approximately $22 billion in international stock investments. Approximately 21% of these stock investments were in Emerging Markets and of that 4.3% was invested in Russia. That is approximately $194 million and now you are telling us that we have $50 million. I am just a retired Professor of Economics and have never taught mathematics but by my calculation that means STRS just lost $144 million. This loss is equal to approximately 7% of the contributions that active teachers make to STRS in a year. In the MSCI index for Emerging Markets Russia accounts for 3.6% and yet STRS had invested 4.3%, so we were significantly overweight. The bet on Russia was primarily being made by our own investment staff with internal investment accounting for 77.5% of the Russia investments. Speaking of investment decisions made by our staff,  you haven’t responded to my email on the Benchmark Scam. Since you have decided to venture into the Members Only Forum, perhaps you would like to respond here. I am sure that the Members would like to hear your response.

STRS Ohio Staff Compensation 2022

From John Curry: Retired Ohio public school teachers to receive the first cost-of-living increase since 2017

Retired Ohio public school teachers to receive the first cost-of-living increase since 2017

March 17, 2022
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Retired Ohio public school teachers will receive a 3% cost-of-living adjustment later this year, the first increase since 2017.
The board of the State Teachers Retirement System, which goes by STRS and is pronounced “stirs,” approved the increase at its monthly meeting Thursday.
The raise will show up on retirees’ pension checks on their retirement anniversary date, starting on July 1, as the raise goes into effect for the fiscal year beginning then, STRS spokesman Nick Treneff said.  
Included in the board’s resolution for the cost-of-living adjustment is a statement that it would consider additional increases in the future, no later than next spring, Treneff said.
The board was originally planning to consider a 2% increase. But the pension’s actuary said the fund could afford 3%. The board opted for the higher level due to higher inflation, as well as wanting to give retirees more because there’s no guarantee of yearly increases in the future, Treneff said.  
Last, the resolution altered a previous change to pension eligibility. In 2012 the board implemented a policy that ratcheted up the minimum years of service and the age to be eligible for a pension so that by 2026, a teacher would have to have 35 years of service and be at least age 60 to retire.
But on Thursday, the board eliminated the age requirement. The 35 years of service still remains, but by eliminating the minimum age, younger teachers will be able to retire when they have enough years of service.
“That’s a benefit to people who go out a little earlier,” Treneff said. “While the (cost-of-living adjustment) enhancement is positive for retired members, I think they(THE RETIREES) wanted to do something to benefit the (working) members as well.”
Removing the age requirement will benefit working members, he said.
STRS and a group of retired teachers have been battling over austerity measures that the pension implemented over the past decade, including a reduction in the annual cost-of-living adjustment, then eliminating the cost-of-living adjustment completely from 2017 to 2022.
The retirement system said it had to shore up funds to recover losses from the last two recessions, because people live longer, and because teacher contributions as a whole have decreased from previously anticipated projections due to either lower-than-expected salaries and fewer teachers on the payroll.
The group of teachers, on the other hand, hired a nationally renown pension expert(SEIDLE) who is suspicious about fees the pension pays to Wall Street money managers, especially for “alternative investments,” which includes private equity, real estate, venture capital and hedge funds.
The pension expert is fighting the retirement system for access to documents showing fees, bonuses and other information. Former Ohio attorney general Marc Dann is representing the expert at the Supreme Court as he fights STRS for documents.
Ohio teacher Julie Sellers and retiree Elizabeth Jones, who are both running for seats on the STRS board, released a joint statement through the Ohio Federation of Teachers on Thursday, after the board’s vote.
They noted that the cost of living rises each year with inflation, yet it’s been years since retirees have seen an increase.
Read the rest of the article here.
Read more:


Tom Curtis' comments on today's STRS Board meeting

From Tom Curtis

March 17, 2022

Today is a great day for retirees and many actives. 

After much lobbying by ORTA, MOF and WATCHDOGS for several years, the STRS Board voted to approve a 3% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to eligible retirees for the 2022-2023 fiscal year and remove the age 60 requirement for retirement eligibility with full benefits that was scheduled to take effect in 2026. 

Watchdogs, all of our efforts have started to pay off. 

Now, it is time to continue our work for the actives. Actives need to place non-OEA active members on the Board so the reduction of the 14% active contribution can be reduced ASAP. VOTE for actives STEVEN FOREMAN & JULIE SELLERS and retirees VOTE for retiree ELIZABETH JONES.

Actives please understand: 

The OEA did not support the 3% COLA, even though they NOW claim they did. The OEA is passing along false information to actives telling them that if the COLA was reinstated that there would be no money for the actives. That simply is not true! The OEA has tried to divide the actives and retirees with their propaganda. That is so very foolish on their part as that indicates that they do not support retirees. So, the organization you have paid dues to all of your career does not support you once you retire. That makes no sense! 

Tom Curtis

OEA-supported STRS Board members fight against risky investment schemes


Wednesday, March 16, 2022

An important message for all active teacher members of the Facebook group Ohio STRS Member Only Forum (MOF) from Joe Lupo, founder

From Joe Lupo

March 16, 2022
When I started this forum on May 7, 2017, the catalyst was the freezing of COLA  by the STRS Board, I had no idea that this would be only the tip of the “STRS Iceberg” that has now been uncovered. Based on this, our focus changed months ago to include ALL concerns and issues impacting both active and retired teachers. It has been clearly documented that the actions of the past and current STRS Boards have negatively impacted ALL members.
The STRS Board’s actions impacting one group, cannot be separated by looking at one group as being more important than the other, or assuming that the impact of the actions taken by the Board will not directly or indirectly impact both actives and retirees. Let us not be fooled by the age old game of “Divide and Conquer” that OEA/STRS has used in the past and is currently engaged in today.
Based on what has been uncovered and what we know today, any half measure by the STRS Board to resolve COLA for retirees or less than acceptable; changes to retirement requirements for active members will not end our continued efforts for changes in STRS. These changes include but are not limited to necessary changes to the STRS Board representation/composition and an end to the past and current management philosophy that has put us where we find ourselves today.
Based on the aforementioned information, I have recommended to the Central Team the appointment of 5 new moderator spots be added to the MOF Central Team to represent the interests of ACTIVE STRS members. Please consider this communication an open invitation for all ACTIVE STRS members of this forum to contact me or any of the current moderators regarding their interest or any questions regarding the requirements of the position. It is our intent to fill these positions before our 5 year anniversary on May 7, 2022 and to have a full compliment of MOF member representation as we continue to move forward with our mission.
In closing, I want to thank all MOF members on behalf of your Central Team for your unwavering and continued support and participation. Together we can accomplish more by standing together and fighting for what is best for ALL STRS members.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Toledo Blade: STRS Board to consider COLA

Teachers pension board considers cost-of-living raise

The Blade
March 14, 2022 
COLUMBUS — Ohio’s pension fund for teachers is expected to vote on a one-time cost-of-living adjustment for retirees, cancel a plan to raise the retirement age, and reduce the contribution rate for active teachers.
The State Teachers Retirement System argues that its strengthened bottom line has made these changes possible while a group of retirees suggests that their sacrifices are the reason.
‘On Thursday, the board will consider:
 A one-time 2 percent COLA for retirees, the first raise seen by some retirees for several years. The move is expected to cost the fund about $120 million a year.
• A permanent reduction in the pension contribution rate of active teachers from 14 percent to 13 percent of their pay.
• The cancellation of a plan to postpone retirement until the age of 60 beginning in 2026. The plan to require that teachers put in 35 years at the desk would still be implemented. Currently, a teacher may retire at any age after 34 years of work.
“Our actuarial funding position has improved dramatically, especially with last year's 29 percent-plus investment returns,” STRS spokesman Nick Treneff said. “They wouldn't be in this position if the pension reforms of 2012 and 2017 hadn't lowered liabilities.
“We've paid down liability much faster,” he said. “The outsized return added about $18 billion to the bottom line of the fund.”
The fund currently has assets of about $95 billion for some 500,000 active, inactive, and retired members.
Ted Siedle, the former Securities Exchange Commission attorney and financial forensics investigator, was hired by the Ohio Retired Teachers Association to conduct an in-depth review of the fund's health and investment practices. The review determined that the fund was overpaying in fees and bonuses for the underperformance of its investment portfolio over the years, a finding the fund disputes.
“The proposal fails to address the fundamental finding that there is ample money — ample money — to pay the cost-of-living adjustments,” Mr. Siedle said. “They just have to take from Peter — Wall Street — to pay Paul — the teachers.”
Public employees do not pay into the Social Security system, so teachers rely predominantly on their pensions in retirement.
As part of a broader plan to meet the state's mandate that public pension funds have long-term plans to meet their obligations, STRS phased out and then eliminated retirees' annual cost-of-living adjustments beginning in 2013. 
The system, like other public pension funds, depends on investment earnings to bridge the gap between what they bring in from employer and employee contributions and what it must spend in benefits.
Dean Dennis, a retired Cincinnati Public Schools teacher and an administrator with the association that hired Mr. Siedle, said teachers have lost the cumulative benefit of annual COLAs for at least five years, something a one-time 2 percent jump now won't come close to undoing.
“People are working longer, getting less, or going without cost-of-living adjustments,” he said. “That's the only thing that's gotten them back on track. They're taking pride for a 29 percent return from 2021, but you know the S&P returned 40 percent. They underperformed by 11 percent and act like they're geniuses.”
Read the rest of the article here.

Monday, March 14, 2022

STRS LOVES to brag! But how have they REALLY been doing in the real estate market, on YOUR DIME? Take an aspirin, then take a look!

From John Curry

March 14, 2022
STRS is always bragging how their "premier" retirement system's investment staff is doing. Well....let us take a visit to the Ohio Retirement Study Council's data bank and see just how "premier" this fine staff is doing! Let's see how their (actually OUR) investors did over the "long haul" of the last 5, 7 and 10 years in real estate.
There are 15 comparisons on this page from the ORSC - 5 comparisons for a 5 year period, 5 comparisons for a 7 year period and 5 comparisons for a 10 year period. 3x5 = 15 categories. WE GOT OUR BUTT KICKED IN ALL 15!!!!! We have 4 "satellite" real estate offices (San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta and New York City) and we can't even beat our other retirement system real estate figures in the State of Ohio. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE???
Sorry about the HPRS (Highway Patrol Retirement System) not coming across clearly in this copy .... so I had to hand write those figures in. YOU CAN SEE THIS SAME PAGE BY CLICKING ON THE LINK BELOW AND GOING TO PAGE 32 OF THE STUDY. Yes, you'll have to download this and enlarge to see it clearly. If you just click on the image below it will enlarge some.
P.S. What do you think would happen if Ohio State lost 15 football games in a row? I think I know....and it wouldn't involve heaping millions of dollars in bonuses on them, would it?

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Candidates for STRS Board who are dedicated to cleaning up THE MESS AT STRS that previous boards didn't clean up; you need to vote them in!

From Tom Curtis

March 13, 2022

Document written by Kay Borchers

Another look at those 2021 bonuses at STRS

You know, we're constantly being told we have to pay those STRS investors a ton of money if we want to keep them. Well, when Tom Curtis asked Gary Russell, an STRS staff member who spoke at the 3/11/22 Stark County Retired Teachers Assn. meeting, how many of them left after the Board didn't approve the  bonuses in 2008, Gary skirted the question entirely; he never did give an answer. What does that tell you? Take a look (below) at the bonuses they got in 2021. Why is it everybody gets rich except the people who pay into the system? 

From Tom Curtis

March 13, 2022

Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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