National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems

The Voice for Public Pensions


NCPERS Public Safety Conference comes to a close

 The annual Public Safety Conference came to a close on Wednesday. 
The annual Public Safety Conference came to a close on Wednesday. Educational sessions began with a presentation on appropriate return assumptions for public safety plans, by Leon “Rocky” Joyner of Segal Consulting. The morning progressed with presentations centering on corporate governance. First up, Greg Kinczewski from the Marco Consulting Group discussed how public safety funds can reform corporate America. Greg stressed how much influence funds have in corporate America through engagement in the companies' they own to enhance their investments.

 Daniel Barenbaum from Berman DeValerio presented on the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors and how they relate to members' fiduciary duty. Daniel gave the arguments both for and against ESG factors consistency with fiduciary duties. The arguments for ESG factors are: in order to properly consider long term returns you need to determine other factors that can affect investment returns; fiduciary duty is about long- term returns, and that potential catastrophic results matter. On the other side, the argument against ESG factors are:  “negative” ESG screens can remove investment opportunities, questions about reliability of reporting and quality of the data, and governance as an excuse to hold sub- par investments in hope of affecting change.

Anthony Roda from Williams & Jensen continued the day with an update on federal legislative and regulatory issues. Anthony updated members on the status of the definition of a municipal advisor, determination letters, the normal retirement age, conversions to Roth accounts, the definition of a governmental plan, and employer pickups. Tax reform, Medicare opts- in, annuity bill and PEPTA are the current legislative priorities for NCPERS.

Switching gears, sessions moved towards successes and changing the pension debate. James Smith from San Antonio Fire & Police Pension Fund shared his insights from Texas' legislative successes for the public safety funds.  James discussed speaking with elected officials on the economic impact pension benefits have on local economies; a large amount of those benefits are put right back into Texas local economies. Changing the debate from the “us versus them” conversation was the focus of Robert Wilson from Missouri Local Government Employee Retirement System. Robert discussed the reason for pensions- to attract quality workers to service the local community.

David Sirota, journalist, columnist and author, addressed the membership on the plot against pensions: the Pew- Arnold campaign to undermine America's retirement security. David talked about the Pew and Arnold campagins in Kentucky, Rhode Island and Detroit. David also shared his insights on what he believes public pensions need to do in order to change perceptions. Most importantly, pensioners need to do a much better job on informing the public on what pensions actually cost in terms of state's entire budgets. David expressed that the anti- pension side is relying on people not understanding that context and relying on the isolation of pension costs. David also believes that pensioners need to better promote how much cities and states benefit in adequately funding their pensions. Better pensions create a better local economic stimulus than investing in corporate subsidies. He also asked the questions, can pension funds guarantee that a certain amount of their money will go into local investments? If the local business community relies on public pensions for investment and the private sector workers rely on for jobs, it will create an environment where public pensions are better for everyone.

Don't forget to check out the NCPERS website for presentations on the Public Safety Conference. Stay tuned for information on the upcoming 2014 Legislative Conference in Washington, DC. We hope to see everyone there!