How Independent is Central States “Independent Counsel”?

The Central States Pension Fund’s Independent Special Counsel’s most recent quarterly report calls into question just how “independently” he functions. 

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In his recent 17-page report, he fails to mention even one sentence regarding the massive opposition to the pension-cut plan pushed by the pension trustees! Even a casual observer of the fund has noticed dozens of active committee, thousands of participants at rallies, thousands more voicing opposition at Treasury Department town-halls. How could our independent watchdog fail to take note of any of it?

Retired federal judge David Coar, the Independent Special Counsel appointed by the court, issues quarterly reports, which are public since TDU members went to federal court to bring them into the light of day. But the reports have come to resemble press releases, more than a watchdog report.

Examples from the March 14, 2016 report on the 4th quarter of 2015:

  • The report re-hashes once again Central States support for legislation in 2010 (six years ago!) that would aid CSPF members (page 4). How about demanding similar support now for the Keep Our Pension Promises Act?
  • The report highlights the role of CSPF’s hand-picked retiree representative, former Hoffa representative Sue Mauren, while failing to note her obvious conflicts of interest (page 5).
  • The report on page 6 repeats the claims of CSPF management that most participants will not lose a penny under the proposed cuts, without noting that thousands of these so-called lucky Teamsters have less than five years in the fund so aren’t even vested. In fact, in 17 pages, the report never mentions that most Teamsters presently facing retirement or recently retired would get cut by 50-70%!
  • On page 7 the report notes the large number of comments submitted by participants to the Treasury Department, but fails to mention that over 90% are against the proposed cuts. Also, the report never mentions the comments submitted by the AARP or Pension Rights Center.
  • The report contains a whitewash of the Trustees’ responsibility to oversee the members’ money by stating (page 8) that the investment allocation of CSPF is “required by the consent decree.” This is a cover-up, since it was the CSPF trustees who voted on April 20, 2010, for the exact allocation of funds presently in effect: with Northern Trust managing 50% and 50% in certain accounts designated by the CSPF trustees by their vote. The fund staff then prepared an order for the Judge to sign, which he did on June 25, 2010. This is exactly how investment decisions have been made for well over 30 years, including when the Trustees selected Goldman Sachs to manage our money (with no opposition from any watchdog), but you would never know it from the Independent Special Counsel’s report.

Central States participants are asking that the watchdog of the CSPF do more than just reflect the PR coming out of the fund.

Related Stories: See Who Dropped the Ball on Wall Street’s Losses for Retirees and see Central States Pension Fund: $16.1 Billion

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