Editorial: Report finds STRS didn’t check its mat


Toledo Blade



“Surprise, surprise, surprise,” as TV character Gomer Pyle used to say.

That’s the only possible response to the news that the state’s teachers pension fund trashed the findings of an independent review of how the fund handles, or truthfully, mishandles, the monies with which they are entrusted.

The review was conducted by Ted Siedle on behalf of the Ohio Retired Teacher’s Association. Needless to say the review found problems — some of them already well-documented. Mr. Siedle is a former attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It doesn’t take a study to figure out that losing half a billion dollars on one investment alone shows a level of incompetence that must have taken a great deal of effort to achieve.

That’s right, $500 million turned into zero. That’s not professional investing, it’s simply dumb. Add that to largely underperforming the market for years.

For too long the system board and the financial managers to which it has paid millions have avoided examination. There’s serious trouble at the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio. It’s time for the governor and legislators to step in and get the system under control by providing more oversight and making changes.

The result of a failed state-sponsored pension fund is all too clear. Taxpayers end up footing the bill. That must not happen.

The $500 million plus was invested in Panda Power. What a cute name. Who could object to investing in Panda Power? You have to wonder if that was the thought going through the heads of the investment advisers for STRS, because not much else was going on in those high-paid gray cells.

It isn’t that hard to at least perform as well as the market, the late Vanguard maven Jack Bogle would tell you. And over the past 15 years, tracking the market would be a very good strategy.

It’s been clear for many years that index funds, for instance, which try to do nothing fancy but invest in large chunks of securities reflecting the various indexes, do at least as well, and usually better, than financial managers and funds that try to beat the market. But risky investments are so sexy. What a great idea — getting paid to lose other people’s money. And the bonuses STRS recently announced amounted to more than $6 million.

The sad thing is that the governor and top legislators make appointments to the STRS board — other members are elected by stakeholders. Houses need cleaning and STRS is a messy house. If they don’t fix it, voters should hold them accountable when they’re asked to pay to save the fund.

The leadership and financial advisers of the system keep doing the same thing year after year. It is time for a change. It’s time for them to go.

Taxpayers and teachers who paid into the retirement system mustn’t end up footing the bill for incompetence.

Reform the state teachers retirement system, before the bill comes due.

Toledo Blade

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