Monday, September 28, 2015

Parting Gift from the Old NYCERS Actuary

Last year I wrote short note on the history of the investment fees paid by the five pension fund sponsored by New York City.

On January 30, 2013 the Governor signed Chapter 3 of the Laws of 2013 changing the assumed interest rate for the five pension funds from 8% gross of fees to 7% net of fees. the legislation was drafted the NYCERS actuary, Robert North. It did a lot of other things but that was the big item. One of those minor things, however, deals with how city repays to the five pension funds the investment expenses incurred by the pension funds in the previous fiscal year (see below: S.13-705, NYC Admin Code). These expenses include the subsidy that the pension funds pay to the Comptroller for his regular operating budget that is part of the total city budget adopted by the City Council.

Beginning in FY-1999 the original legislation required the city to pay in FY-2000 with 8% interest all investment expenses incurred in FY- 199. This meant that these expenses were treated as operating expenses and not long term capital expenses. This is a very sound accounting practice. This legislation was also drafted by the NYCERS actuary.

You can further see that that starting with FY-2005 the law was changed to allow the city to repay expenses two years later rather than one year, so that FY-2005 was paid back in FY-2007 rather that in FY-2006. Again with 8% interest. This amending legislation was also drafted by the actuary.

You can also see that the law was again changed starting with FY-2010. And again it was drafted by the actuary. This change allows the city to treat the repayment of investment expenses as a long term capital expense rather than an operating expense. The new change also dropped the interest rate charge, in effect making this a interest free loan. Needless to say this is not a sound accounting practice. It gave the current city administration a payment holiday now and dropped the costs on a future city administration. This is how a pension crisis is born.

The new statute is listed below. It is the last item at the end of thirty two sections amending the NYC Admin Code. The new language is underlined as is standard.

§ 32. Subdivision d of section 13-705 of the administrative code of the city of New York, as amended by chapter 152 of the laws of 2006, is amended to read as follows:

d. In each city fiscal year, beginning with investment expenses paid during the nineteen hundred ninety-eight--nineteen hundred ninety-nine fiscal year, whenever the income, interest or dividends derived from deposits or investments of the funds of a retirement system are used pursuant to subdivision b of this section to pay the expenses incurred by such retirement system in acquiring, managing or protecting invest- ments of its funds, the monies so paid shall be made a charge to be paid by each participating employer otherwise required to make contributions to such retirement system no later than the end of the fiscal year next succeeding the fiscal year during which such monies were drawn upon, provided,

however, that where such charge is for such investment expenses paid during fiscal year two thousand four--two thousand five or during any subsequent fiscal year, such charge shall be paid by each such participating employer no later than the end of the second fiscal year succeeding the fiscal year during which such monies were drawn upon

, provided further that the provisions of this subdivision shall not apply to investment expenses paid during the two thousand nine--two thousand ten fiscal year or during any subsequent fiscal year.

In the event that such retirement system has more than one participating employer, the actuary shall calculate and allocate to each such partic- ipating employer its share of such charge.

All charges to be paid pursu- ant to this subdivision shall be paid at the regular rate of interest utilized by the actuary in determining employer contributions to the retirement system pursuant to the provisions of paragraph two of subdi- vision b of section 13-638.2 of this title.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The New NYCERS Actuary

I just came across the announcement of the new NYCERS actuary (see quote below). It is from the NYC web site dated back in May. I had been looking for it for awhile but I only found it when a friend sent me a link to the city web site. The reason I had not seen it before was that the announcement does not actually say that NYCERS had appointed a new actuary. The former NYCERS actuary, Bob North, resigned in the Fall of 2014.

May 29, 2015 NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced Sherry Chan as the City’s new Chief Actuary. In this role, Chan will serve the City’s retirement funds and oversee actuarial calculations for post-employments benefits for City employees.

Legally the City does not have a Chief Actuary. NYCERS and TRS have actuaries (see quote below from NYC Admin Code). The two retirement funds usually appoint the same person as their actuary. That appears to be a very practical policy but in reality it is not financially sound. They are two very different pension funds with different liabilities. As background, by statute the NYCERS actuary is also the actuary for the Police and Fire pension funds and the TRS actuary is also the actuary for BERS (Board of Ed. Retirement System).

Ms. Chan is a ASA of the Society of Actuaries, not a FSA. I guess that is not a big deal unless it was because NYCERS could not attract a full Fellow of the Society of Actuaries. Once upon a time actuaries needed to be highly skilled mathematical technicians. Now they need to fearless messengers of painfully news.

The assumed interest rate is the key component of the annual pension costs that the city and the other participating employers must pay to the pension funds each year. It will be interesting to see where Ms. Chan stands on the 7% net of fees rate. She will be required to make a recommendation this winter for a new five year rate effective July, 1, 2016 and Albany will have to enact enabling legislation by June 30, 2016.

I suspect she will punt and ask for a one year extension of the old rate. North did this all the time. It is a bad fiscal policy and contributes to the under-funding of the pension funds.

Her most recent job was the actuary for the Ohio State PERS which began in January, 2014 and ran through May, 2015. It was interesting to watch the NYCERS chair introduce Ms. Chan to the Board of Trustees at the June Board of Trustees meeting. I guess they had never met her before that.

§ 13-121 Retirement system; adoption of tables and certification of rates.

The actuary appointed by the board shall be the technical advisor on all matters regarding the operation of the funds provided for by this chapter and shall perform such other duties as are required of him or her.

The actuary shall keep in convenient form such data as shall be necessary for the actuarial valuation of such funds.

Every five years, he or she shall make an actuarial investigation into the mortality, service and compensation experience of the members and beneficiaries as defined by this chapter and he or she shall make a valuation, as of June thirtieth of each year, of the assets and liabilities of the various funds provided for by this chapter.

Upon the basis of such investigation such board shall: 1. Adopt for the retirement system such mortality, service and other tables as shall be deemed necessary; and 2. Certify the rates of deduction from compensation computed to be necessary to pay the annuities authorized under the provisions of this chapter.

As part of the May 29th announcement, the mayor's office described Ms. Chan's work load as follows:
As Chief Actuary, Chan will work for the five major actuarially-funded New York City Retirement Systems, including the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS), the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), the Board of Education Retirement System (BERS), the New York City Police Pension Fund, and the New York Fire Department Pension Fund.

The Chief Actuary also serves as the legally-designated technical advisor to the Board of Trustees of the New York City Retirement Systems (NYCRS).

The Office of the Actuary is responsible for determining employer contributions and funded status for NYCRS, preparing employer contributions for use in the development of budget and financial plans, certifying benefits for retiring employees, and preparing financial reports and accounting information on the New York City Health Benefits Program.

Friday, September 25, 2015

When You Buy a Ferrari and You Really Need a Pickup Truck

What happens when you buy a Ferrari, when you need a pickup truck?

You pay 10 times too much for what you need, you don't get what you need, and you pay a lot for mechanics. What you do get is a fast car.

It's too bad that the NYCERs doesn't even get a fast car when they make the wrong investment decisions.

Here's the the bill for the mechanics. And once again NYCERS is not even getting Ferrari mechanics.

As of August 2, 2015 the Comptroller increased the salaries of his investment staff. The story is that the five city pension funds were convinced to pay for the increases through their mindless subsidy to the Comptroller's budget. Of course, that is an illusion. It is the NYC taxpayers and the NYC employees who are paying for these increases. In fact, the employees pay twice, once as a taxpayer and a second time through their pension payroll deductions.

All the lucky people listed below are provisional employees. I wonder how permanent civil servants feel about that?

This is in addition to the five investment consultants that NYCERS paid $3.2M in FY-2014. Consultants are not the managers who do the actual investing but "experts" who advise the trustees on how oversee the managers.

Salary Increases at the Comptroller's Office

Count Name Civil Service Title Assignment % Increase New Salary Old salary New Hire
1Scott EvansPension Investment AdvisorCIO 56%$350,000$224,359
2 Michael Garland Admin Staff Analyst Corporate Governance 56%$265,000$169,872
3John MerseburgAdmin Staff Analyst Public Equities93% $250,000$129,650yes
4Niel MessingAdmin ManagerHedge Funds 67%$250,000$149,701
5Alexis DoneAdmin Staff AnalystPrivate Equity 75% $280,000$160,000
6Martin GantzAdmin Staff AnalystFixed Income 62%$280,000$172,840
7Yvonne NelsonAdmin Staff AnalystReal Estate 69%$265,000$156,805
8Petya NikolovaAdmin Staff Analyst Infrastructure 59%$250,000$157,233
9 Miles Draycott Admin Staff Analyst$265,000
10Evan NahnsenAdmin Manager$180,000
11Noraina ParesAdmin Staff Analyst$130,000
12 Tatiana Pohotsky Admin Manager $160,000
13 Wesley Pulisic Admin Manager $180,000
14 Steven Veloric Admin Accountant $160,000
15 Scott Zdrazil Admin Manager $170,000
16 Marc Gross Admin Staff Analyst $110,000 $70,833 yes
17 Vistoria Hui Admin Staff Analyst $120,000 $85,000 yes
18 Janet Londond-Valle Admin Staff Analyst $130,000
19 Karen Barclay Admin Manager $160,000
20 Shachi Bhatt Admin Staff Analyst $160,000
21 Yi Feng Admin Manager $180,000
22 Millicen Budhai-Robinson Admin Staff Analyst $110,000
23 Eneasz Kadziela Admin Manager $130,000
24 Lakhir Kaur Admin Manager $110,000 $70,000 yes
25 Louis Lent Admin Accountant $110,000
26 Barbara Nersten Admin Accountant $120,000 $70,789 yes
Total = $4,875,000