Newspaper editorial correct on divestment issue
A recent editorial in the Columbus Dispatch urged Ohio politicians not to meddle in the investment decisions made by the state’s pension systems.
While OPERS is clearly against terrorism, we agree with the editorial. Our job at OPERS is not to influence foreign policy.
Further, OPERS already has shown a willingness to avoid such investments on a voluntary basis. We routinely screen our investment portfolios to identify companies that may be doing business in Iran or Sudan. As a result, since 2007 we have decreased our investment in those countries from $393 million to less than $13 million.
OPERS has a legal responsibility to act in the best interests of its members, and that includes our investment portfolio.
Michael Pramik is communication strategist for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and editor of the PERSpective blog. As an experienced business journalist, he clarifies complex pension policies and helps members make smart choices to secure their retirement.
4 thoughts on “Newspaper editorial correct on divestment issue”
I totally agree that the money in OPERS funds belongs to the retirees and that the state no longer has any control over its use. I am glad to know that OPERS recognizes the issues of concern about investments with companies doing business with Iran and that we have worked to decrease those. What can be done, however, to finalize with the legislature our position on who has control of pension funds,which by the way also includes funds that have been earned by wise investing? Also I do wonder if there is a benefit to American companies doing business with Iran. Any opinions on that?
I think the law (Ohio Revised Code Section 145) is pretty clear on who controls our funds. The members of the OPERS Board of Trustees have full power to invest these funds.
Regarding your other question, we do not have an opinion on that. The only remaining investment in question is in a huge Russian oil and gas company that has a relatively small presence in Iran. Our Iran/Sudan policy, which you can read in full on our website, states in part that divestment could occur “if comparable investments offering similar quality, return and safety are available.” Meeting those criteria isn’t always as easy as it may seem.
OPERS mismanagement of our funds have cost members what? Plenty . Loss of spouses health care payment, loss of part b reimbursement, higher co pays and out of pocket expenses . OPERS is going to say ” we have no control over the markets ” . We did what we had to do to save our pensions!
The worst is yet to come. The problem is that ; the yet to retire ( OPERS ) generation does not pay attention to what’s going to affect them in the future . Wake up ?
I am listening to the book “Too Big to Fail”. I would say it is mismanagement and greed on Wall Street with its mortgage speculation, Credit Default Swaps, etc. with the associated Great Recession that put OPERS in the same difficult position as many other large retirement funds. Many funds have had to adjust benefits to recover from the losses of those years and our long-living population. I would guess these adjustments to previous very generous benefits are to make the funds more likely to continue to be available at this more reasonable level for future generations of retirees. OPERS has a difficult job to do and appears to be doing this in a wise manner.