“Public pensions in New York State have some of the most reliable funding in the country, but what happens to the money once it is in the pension system can be less clear-cut.
Now, state financial regulators have subpoenaed about 20 companies that help New York’s pension trustees decide how to invest the billions of dollars under their control to determine whether any outside advice is clouded by undisclosed financial incentives or other conflicts of interest.
“The recent financial difficulties in Detroit serve as a stern wake-up call, demonstrating why strong oversight of New York’s public pension funds is so important,” Benjamin M. Lawsky, the New York financial services superintendent, said in letters sent last month to the trustees of the top state and city public plans.
Detroit’s municipal pension fund suffered severe losses on real estate investments, among other problems, and now that the city is bankrupt, investigators are trying to find out exactly what went wrong. In some cases, certain Detroit pension trustees were taken on junkets dressed up as investment site inspections. And in one instance, an investment promoter paid a bribe to win pension money for real estate projects in the Caribbean but then spent the money building an $8.5 million mansion in Georgia.“
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