Fitzpatrick & Monahan: Who's Afraid of Good Governance? State Fiscal Crises, Public Pension Underfunding, and the Resistance to Governance Reform

ABSTRACT:

Much attention has been paid to the significant underfunding of many state and local employee pension plans, as well as efforts by states and cities to alleviate that underfunding by modifying the benefits provided to workers. Yet relatively little attention has been paid to the systemic causes of such financial distress — such as chronic underfunding that shifts financial burdens to future taxpayers, and governance rules that may reduce the likelihood that a plan’s trustees will make optimal investment decisions. This article presents the results of a qualitative study of the funding and governance provisions of twelve public pension plans that are a mix of state and local plans of various funding levels. We find that none of the plans in our study satisfy the best practices that have been established by expert panels, but also that the strength of a plan’s governance provisions does not appear correlated with a plan’s financial health. Our most important finding is that, regardless of the content of a plan’s governance provisions, such provisions are almost never effectively enforced. This lack of enforcement, we theorize, has a significant, detrimental impact on plan funding and governance. If neither plan participants nor state taxpayers are able to effectively monitor and challenge a state’s inadequate funding or improper investment decisions, public plans are very likely to remain underfunded. We conclude by offering several possible reform options to address the monitoring and enforcement problems made clear by our study: automatic benefit haircuts, automatic tax increases, a low-risk investment requirement, and market monitoring through the use of modified pension obligation bonds.

 

Available for download here.

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Bachher, de Bever, Chuyan & Monk: Rethinking Investment Performance Attribution

ABSTRACT:

Proprietary information and data-processing systems have become key competitive differentiators for investors; better systems provide better data, which in turn drive better investment decisions and performance. But while the best systems are multifaceted and touch all aspects of the investment organization, one component of such systems is increasingly important: the measurement and attribution of investment performance. Performance attribution should do more than just explain the past; it should also be a tool to make better future investment decisions. This article describes the Alberta Investment Management Corporation’s journey to develop a performance attribution system as an investment management tool, in the hope of contributing to the institutional investor debate on how to best address this important topic.
Available for download here.