New York State Retirement System
At the market's peak a little over a year ago, the two principal funds that New York uses to invest retirement money, the New York State Common Retirement System and the New York State Teachers' Retirement System, had equity assets valued at over $120 billion. Since then the value of assets in these funds has plummeted and is currently at a little under $60 billion, a 50% decrease! This, unfortunately, is the pattern with all other state retirement funds, which have suffered comparable losses over the past year. The top 20 stock positions of the two New York State pension funds are listed below (holdings are presented on a combined basis). And if the drubbing of financial stocks continues, it is very likely that the value of these top holdings, which have traditionally accounted for about a third of the total funds' values, will likely continue dropping, due to the prominent positions held in both JP Morgan and Wells Fargo.
However, direct investing in stocks does not make the pension funds "Fund of Funds" per se: at most it makes them bad mutual fund-type stockpickers. And state pensioners will have ample opportunity to voice their displeasure with the performance of the funds' Chief Investment Officers, Robert Arnold for the Common Retirement Fund and George Philip for the Teachers Retirement Fund.
What is more curious is an often missed page in the Office Of The State Comptroller's website (link here) in which the New York State Common Retirement Fund discloses its monthly indirect investment in other asset managers, be they private, public equity or real estate focused. Compiling the publicly available data from February 2007 yields some curious results. Turns out in 2007 the New York Common Fund invested over $5.9 billion directly into a plethora of other hedge and private equity funds, and a total of $7.3 billion net invested over the past 2 years. Some curious names that stand out:
- Guggenheim, which received $100 million in May 2007 and a total of $500 million, and which has since shuttered;
- Bear Stearns, which received $20 million in June 2007, after the blow up, only to see a the entire investment (including previous installments) of $490 redeemed in August, likely at a great loss;
- The investment of $415 million in 24 assorted office properties in October 2007 (peak of the commercial real estate market) through a JV with Liberty Washington;
- Apollo's latest Investment Fund (VII), which received $350 million in August 2007, which somehow closed in late January with $15 billion in total commitments. Looks like New York ignored the stellar performance of the prior fund, in which most leveraged buyouts are currently bankrupt or on the verge;
- BlackStone Real Estate Partners VI, in which the fund invested $800 million, and which closed in March 2008 with total commitments of $10.9 billion. Blackstone Real Estate became famous for its bidding war for the Equity Office Properties REIT which it won at the peak of the market with a final purchase price of $39 billion, and in which it invested almost $4 billion in equity, only to flip most of it to pay down the associated debt; they are likely stuck with the balance at a significantly underwater valuation.
- Harbinger Capital Partners, which received a $71 million investment from the fund in 2007, and which is likely worth roughly 60 cents on the dollar;
- Cerberus, which received $50 million in May 2007, and which might very well have been immediately funneled into such sterling investments as Chrysler and Aozora bank;
- GoldenTree, which received $35 million in 2007, and is now running dutch auctions to offload all its illiquid holdings;
- Xerion, which received $13 million in 2008, months after it was acquired by Perella Weinberg. As we have written, Joe Perella is probably the most important financial advisor in the country currently, advising the FDIC on its assorted activities (with very little information on how the process is compensated). If New York is invested in a fund which is run by a firm compensated by the FDIC, the potential conflict of interest here, absent further disclosure, could have massive proportions.
This is not to say that The Common Fund has only had horrendous indirect investments. In 2007 the Fund also invested $5 million in Paulson's Fund (followed by $48 million in 2008), $150 million in Chelsea Clinton's former employer Avenue Capital, and $12 million in Izzy Englander's Millennium Partners, which seem to believe in generating CD type returns with no down month as far as one can remember. The full list of fund recipients is presented here as per the data on the New York State Comptroller's page.
A Little Too Much Affirmative Action?
Following the Spitzer fiasco, and David Paterson's appointment as New York Governor, there was a marked shift in the investment targets of the Common Fund. Beginning in March of 2008, the biggest recipient of funding, by a very wide margin, were funds that are defined in the Monthly Transaction Reports as "minority-owned firms." In fact, David seems to be such a supporter of minority-led hedge funds, that in 2008 more than half of the $1.4 billion invested in assorted asset managers went to minority-owned companies, $760 million to be exact. Which implies that the only way to get startup funding these days, with traditional avenues closed, may be to apply to the New York Common Fund and check the non-white box.
The Upcoming Pension Mess
Pension funds' calculations for actuarial purposes presume a roughly 8% annual growth in perpetuity, the result of which funnel through into the over- or under-funding estimates for a State's budget for any given period of time. The current dislocation implies that absent an approximately $50 billion injection of new capital, New York's Pension Funds are guaranteed to be unable to keep up with increasing cash outflow requirements. As we mentioned, New York is not alone in this predicament, with all major public employee reitrement funds currently down anywhere between 40% and 50%. While public anger is still focused merely on the huge deficit in the state's income statement, soon all hell will break loose when millions of current police, healthcare and educational retirees realize they will have go back to work as their pensions disappear. The speed of the market's collapse will determine how quickly that day comes.Sphere: Related Content