DiNapoli: Pension Fund Reaches $209.2B

The state pension fund reported a 1.53 percent rate of return during the first quarter of 2018 and reached a value of $209.2 billion, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office said.

“The Fund saw steady growth in the first quarter,” DiNapoli said. “New York state’s pension fund is designed and prudently managed to provide sustainable investment returns over the long-term, that means adjusting to conditions and finding opportunities even when markets are uncertain.”

The pension fund paid out $2.8 billion in benefits during the first quarter of the fiscal year, which ran from April 1 to June 30. It began the fiscal year at $207.4 billion.

DiNapoli is running for re-election this November, facing presumptive Republican nominee Jonathan Trichter.

Trichter Says Pension Fund Is Underperforming

New York’s $207 billion pension fund should be worth $344 billion, Republican comptroller candidate Jonathan Trichter argued in a white paper released on Monday by his campaign.

Trichter in a conference call with reporters argued Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office has poorly managed the state’s pension fund over the last 11 years and has failed to meet targets

The report argues these investment targets were missed due to the 5.36 percent net of fees and the 5.59 percent gross of fees compared with the 7.6 percent that was anticipated. Taken over a 10-year period, this amounts to $137 billion in missed value.

At the same time, Trichter’s report points to a failure to meet market benchmarks for returns over the last decade, including under performing investments in private equity and the investments made in hedge funds.

“DiNapoli has used all the measures in his tool box to obfuscate how the fund is doing,” Trichter said, adding the incumbent comptroller has sosught to “paper over a number of key indicators of how the pension fund is doing.”

DiNapoli’s campaign knocked the report and its methodology.

“It’s not surprising that a guy who just joined the party of Donald Trump is now trafficking in fake news to get attention,” said Doug Forand, a campaign spokesman for DiNapoli. “His numbers simply do not add up.”

Trichter is a former Democrat who is running against DiNapoli as he seeks a third full term. DiNapoli was first appointed to the post in 2007 following the resignation of Alan Hevesi.

The numbers released by Trichter in the report do not assume monthly benefit payments to retirees and family members and ignores significant economic events of the last decade, such as the recession and its subsequent impact on investments, DiNapoli’s campaign argued.

The pension fund’s investment performance itself is reviewed by actuaries and outside advisory groups as well as independent accounting organizations.

DiNapoli Pressures Social Media Firms On Privacy, Terms Of Service

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is pressuring social media and search giants to bolster privacy and harassment protections for users as well as crack down on fraudulent news stories, announcing Tuesday the pension fund would flex its muscle in the hopes of influencing the companies to make changes.

DiNapoli’s office announced the pension fund would cast votes against Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and five other Facebook board members, as well as the four directors who are up for election at Twitter. The fund is also voting against four of the 10 directors who are standing for election at Alphabet, the parent company of Google.

The push is part of a shareholder proposal co-filed with Arjuna Capital that is pushing boards to reveal more information on what the steps they are taking to enforce service agreements.

“Billions of social media users are at risk of being exposed to fake news, hate speech and sexual harassment if these companies cannot enforce their own user agreements,” DiNapoli said. “Unless safeguards are in place, the companies are at risk of financial losses, lawsuits and reputational damage.”

DiNapoli’s office has in recent years sought to leverage changes from major companies the pension fund has investments in, wringing changes from oil and gas firms as well as disclosure of political spending. This is the first foray into seeking better practices from major web companies that have increasingly broad influence over how Americans consume information.

The pensions holds approximately $1.1 billion in Facebook shares, $43.9 million in Twitter shares and $1.8 billion in Alphabet Inc. shares.

DiNapoli Pushes Wynn Resorts To Disclose Political Spending

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is nudging investors in Wynn Resorts to use their leverage as shareholders to have the company disclose its direct and indirect political spending.

DiNapoli has filed a shareholder request as the trustee of the state’s pension fund to have the company disclose the spending, which is due to be voted on Wednesday.

“Corporate spending on political causes is inherently risky, and the stakes are raised when it’s done behind closed doors,” DiNapoli said. “Shareholders have the right to know if their investment dollars are being spent on political agendas that are not in the company’s best interest.”

Steve Wynn, a national Republican fundraiser, stepped down from the CEO position at the company in February after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct.

New York’s pension fund holds shares valued at $32.8 million in Wynn Resorts as of last month.

Fuller To Retire From Comptroller’s Office

Vicki Fuller, the top official overseeing the state’s $200 billion pension fund, is retiring this summer, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said Friday in a statement.

“I will always be grateful to Comptroller DiNapoli for the opportunity to work on behalf of New York’s public servants and their families,” Fuller said.

“His trust, support and thoughtfulness have been indispensable. And my colleagues at the Fund have been essential to every accomplishment we have enjoyed. Since my first day they have been an inspiration and an extraordinarily dedicated team of talented and genuinely nice people. There is never a great time to leave a place like the New York State Common Retirement Fund but there are several goals I want to pursue while I can.”

Fuller has served as the chief investment officer of the state’s common retirement fund for the last six years.

In a statement, DiNapoli pointed the average annual growth rate of more than 8.75 percent for the fund.

“The Fund has gained significant value and led the nation as one of the best managed public pension funds. Her legacy and dedication are impressive, but nothing is more important than her sincere and tireless concern for the more than one million New York state workers, retirees and families who rely on the Fund for financial security,” DiNapoli said.

“Since Vicki joined us, she has focused her decades of investment experience on delivering results and enhancing the Fund’s ability to serve their interests far into the future. By both measures, she has been an absolute success.”

Reform Party Endorses DiNapoli

The state Reform Party on Wednesday announced it has endorsed Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, a Democrat seeking a third full term this year.

DiNapoli is expected to face at this point Democrat Jonathan Trichter, a political consultant who is seeking the Republican ballot line.

“We’re going to choose the best candidates on the merits,” said the party’s chairman, Curtis Sliwa. “That will include Republicans, Democrats and independents.”

Sliwa, a radio personality and founder of the Guardian Angels, is weighing a bid for governor on the ballot line that had first been formed in 2014 as an effort to oppose the Common Core education standards.

Report Finds 10 Villages In Fiscal Stress

Ten villages and two cities in New York are in some form of fiscal trouble, a report issued Thursday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office found.

The fiscal stress report determine one village, Island Park, and a city, Long Beach, are in a state of “significant fiscal stress.”

Additionally, the villages of Andover, Ellenville, Granville and Valley Stream are in moderate fiscal stress.

“Our indicators show fiscal stress is relatively low among New York’s villages,” said DiNapoli. “I continue to encourage local officials to be mindful about how practices today might impact budgetary solvency in the future. Our monitoring system helps keep local officials and the public informed on this important community issue each year, including the economic and demographic drivers of fiscal stress.”

DiNapoli’s office created the fiscal stress review system as a way of monitoring municipalities and their budgetary problems before they arise into significant issues for the state to handle.

The review evaluated 529 village governments in the state which mostly have a fiscal year that ends May 31 as well as 17 cities.

The full list of fiscal stress scores can be found here.

DiNapoli: EPF Paying Out And Paying Off

Money being spent from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund are at an all-time high, a report released Monday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office found.

While that has meant more money for open space and water quality, it’s also meant spending for future years will be needed in order to provide additional resources for the fund, the report found.

“Twenty-five years ago, the state established a permanent fund with dedicated revenues to protect New York’s environmental, recreational and other natural resources,” DiNapoli said. “Historic high levels of EPF spending in recent years underscore the fund’s vital role in preserving the environment for all New Yorkers. We must ensure its sustainability as a dedicated funding stream to continue investment in these precious resources for future generations.”

Environmental groups have praised the successful push to boost spending at the EPF, which has reach a record appropriation of $302 million. A virtually similar appropriation has been included in the proposed budget.

Average disbursements are estimated to stand a $242.4 million over the next six years.

Nevertheless, concerns include transferring money out of the fund and some, nearly 15 percent, hasn’t been replenished.

Here’s the full report:

epf-report-3-2-18 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

DiNapoli Finds Contracting Problems At SUNY Campus Foundations

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office found 10 of the campus foundations at the 30 state public colleges and universities were operating without contracts required while they oversee billions of dollars in donations and resources.

The report released Tuesday by DiNapoli called on SUNY administration to work with campus foundation organizations to ensure their contracts are executed on a timely basis and routinely evaluate relevant and available data to assess risk.

“We found numerous problems with SUNY’s oversight of its campus foundations. SUNY does not regularly examine the foundations’ books, and my auditors found instances of questionable expenses,” DiNapoli said. “SUNY administrators need to improve their oversight efforts to make sure billions of dollars are being handled properly.”

At the same time, 16 foundations have not been audited by SUNY’s administration since 2007. Auditors determine the administrators have not obtained or reviewed contract negotiations, nor have they developed interim contracts as a bridge.

All told, state-operated campuses have $2.1 billion in net assets since June 2015, when the most recent fiscal information was available.

DiNapoli Sues Wynn Resorts

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has filed a lawsuit against Wynn Resorts, alleging top officials at the company knew of sexual misconduct and harassment by ex-CEO Steve Wynn, but failed to investigate or hold him accountable.

The comptroller’s office on Monday announced what is known as a derivative lawsuit that allows shareholders to file legal actions on the behalf of a corporation when its officers or directors have failed to meet their required fiduciary responsibilities.

“These board directors and officers were duty-bound to protect employees and the company, yet they failed to confront allegations of predatory behavior,” DiNapoli said. “We are asking the court to hold accountable the company officers and directors who allowed this behavior to go unchecked. The deeply disturbing revelations underscore that this board was loyal to Mr. Wynn at the expense of the safety of the company’s employees and the company’s shareholders.”

The lawsuit claims the board of Wynn Resorts knew of allegations against its former CEO since March 28 of 2016 and failed to act on reports of sexual abuse and harassment of his employees. Wynn, a prominent political donor in Nevada and nationally, stepped down as head of the Republican National Committee’s fundraising arm after the allegations surfaced earlier this year.

The state’s pension fund holds $30.4 million in shares in Wynn Resorts. DiNapoli’s office plans to use the pension fund’s leverage to vote against all incumbents nominated to serve on the board at the firm’s annual meeting.

Wynn Complaint by Nick Reisman on Scribd