FEATURED ARTICLES
NEWS
November 23, 2009 | By Martha Woodall INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Eighteen months after Pennsylvania's retirement system began investigating Dorothy June Brown for collecting full-time salaries from two charter schools, Brown's pension benefits have been slashed. The state Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) has informed Brown that her monthly benefit is being cut from $14,150 to $3,254 - a 77 percent drop. Ruling that Brown had provided incomplete and conflicting information, the system wiped out all employment credit she had claimed since July 2004.
BUSINESS
March 17, 2014 | By Joseph N. DiStefano, Inquirer Staff Writer
Why don't they just hire Vanguard ? The Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System thought some explaining was in order. PSERS needed $1.4 billion from state and local property taxpayers last year, and it expects to need $2.7 billion next year, it told legislators in February in its yearly report. That's after paying $552 million to hundreds of private investment firms - more than half the total for private equity, private debt, hedge, venture capital, commodity, and other investments you can't buy from a broker - to keep its assets from sliding farther below its liabilities.
BUSINESS
April 17, 2015 | By Joseph N. DiStefano, Inquirer Staff Writer
After a "national search," Pennsylvania's underfunded Public School Employees' Retirement System , based in Harrisburg, said Wednesday that it has offered its top job to a candidate from close to home: State Rep. Glen R. Grell (R., Cumberland). Grell's predecessor, Jeffrey Clay , who retired a year ago, was paid $237,000 a year, which would be a big raise over the $86,000 Grell earned as a state representative. He is "still negotiating" his pay with PSERS, spokeswoman Evelyn T. Williams told me. In a statement, Grell said he would miss representing his Harrisburg-area district, and thanked the PSERS trustees who selected him. The trustees - aides to the governor, teacher and school board representatives, and lawmakers - are familiar faces to Grell because he was a member of the board until January, when he was replaced by state House leaders with Rep. Stephen Bloom , also a Cumberland County Republican.
BUSINESS
May 31, 2014 | By Joseph N. DiStefano, Inquirer Staff Writer
The underfunded Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement System has deleted contracts with "alternative investment" funds - that invest billions of dollars in teachers' retirement money - from the website of the state's Treasury Department . The decision to no longer make the contracts available for public scrutiny was confirmed Thursday by Evelyn Tatkovski , a spokeswoman for PSERS. I had asked PSERS about claims by Susan Webber , the New York financial consultant who runs the caustic website NakedCapitalism.com , that the posted documents had created a "Snowden moment.
NEWS
November 20, 1991 | By Robert Zausner, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau
An internal investigation of alleged irregularities in the $19 billion state teachers' pension system has led to accusations of misconduct and conflicts of interest involving a member of the pension board, several brokerage firms and a former top official of the fund. The inquiry, conducted by former U.S. Attorney Peter F. Vaira of Philadelphia, concludes that the pension system consequently lost about $400,000 - and possibly much more. The board of the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS)
BUSINESS
February 2, 2015 | By Joseph N. DiStefano, Inquirer Staff Writer
Worn power tools, VCRs, patio furniture: Sometimes it's time to load old treasures in the trunk, head to the flea market, and see what you can get for them. The underfunded Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System has that kind of problem. As of last year, 35 percent of its $52 billion in pension assets was invested in private-equity funds, real estate, and other private investments you can't trade on the stock or bond markets. Some of these private investments were quite profitable; some lost money.
BUSINESS
March 13, 2016 | By Joseph N. DiStefano, Staff Writer
The $52-billion-asset Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System lost money last year, trailing the performance of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey state worker pension investment returns for 2015, according to a report the system released Friday. PSERS reported losing 1.8 percent for the 12 months ended Dec. 31. SERS , the Pennsylvania state workers' fund, last month reported a gain of 0.5 percent for 2015. NJDI , the New Jersey Division of Investment, reported a gain of 0.6 percent.
NEWS
December 11, 2011 | By Mark Fazlollah, Inquirer Staff Writer
The Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System will hit schools across the state for higher employer pension contributions for the fiscal year beginning in July. In an announcement late Friday, PSERS said school districts must contribute an additional $1.8 billion to the state fund, which has 279,000 active school workers and 194,000 retirees. The increase amounts to a 12.36 percent surcharge on salaries of school employees for next year, compared with about 8 percent this year.
BUSINESS
June 3, 2014 | By Erin E. Arvedlund, Inquirer Columnist
Pennsylvania's Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS), the 18th-largest state-sponsored, defined-benefit public pension fund in the nation, runs money for more than 400,000 teachers and retirees. And PSERS likes hedge funds. But are hedge funds worth it? PSERS oversees assets of $50.4 billion. Roughly 10 percent, or $5 billion, of that is invested in hedge funds, which generally charge 2 percent of assets and 20 percent of performance annually. An index mutual fund typically charges much less, say, 0.50 percent a year.
BUSINESS
August 19, 2003 | By Joseph N. DiStefano INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Thanks to the summer stock market rally, Pennsylvania's largest pension fund profited from its investments during the last fiscal year for the first time since 1999-2000. But the fund, which supports 136,000 retired teachers, still fell short of its performance target, according to information the fund released yesterday. The $42 billion Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) gained 2.7 percent on its investments during the 12 months ended June 30 as rising stock values in the second quarter made up for losses that the fund sustained during the second half of last year.
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NEWS
July 27, 2016 | By Karen Langley, HARRISBURG BUREAU
HARRISBURG - State examiners will launch a fresh look at the pension systems that manage about $78 billion in assets for hundreds of thousands of public employees and retirees, the state's top auditor said Monday. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale told reporters that he is particularly interested in fees paid to outside investment managers. "We're paying them a lot of money," DePasquale said in a conference call. "What are we getting in return?" He announced the planned audits days after federal prosecutors filed false-statement charges against former state Treasurer Barbara Hafer and fraud counts against a Philadelphia-area businessman, Richard Ireland, over contracts he arranged for the management of state money.
BUSINESS
March 14, 2016 | By Joseph N. DiStefano, Staff Writer
Last week, Gov. Wolf applauded Pennsylvania's underfunded retirement plans - SERS (state employees), PSERS (public school employees) - for trimming the fees they pay private money-management firms. Those fees are down $103 million at PSERS and $16 million at SERS from the levels of two years ago. As it was, the state paid about $600 million last year to JPMorgan , BlackRock , the Independence Capital funds, and hundreds of other portfolio managers to direct $75 billion in pension investments.
BUSINESS
March 13, 2016 | By Joseph N. DiStefano, Staff Writer
The $52-billion-asset Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System lost money last year, trailing the performance of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey state worker pension investment returns for 2015, according to a report the system released Friday. PSERS reported losing 1.8 percent for the 12 months ended Dec. 31. SERS , the Pennsylvania state workers' fund, last month reported a gain of 0.5 percent for 2015. NJDI , the New Jersey Division of Investment, reported a gain of 0.6 percent.
BUSINESS
April 17, 2015 | By Joseph N. DiStefano, Inquirer Staff Writer
After a "national search," Pennsylvania's underfunded Public School Employees' Retirement System , based in Harrisburg, said Wednesday that it has offered its top job to a candidate from close to home: State Rep. Glen R. Grell (R., Cumberland). Grell's predecessor, Jeffrey Clay , who retired a year ago, was paid $237,000 a year, which would be a big raise over the $86,000 Grell earned as a state representative. He is "still negotiating" his pay with PSERS, spokeswoman Evelyn T. Williams told me. In a statement, Grell said he would miss representing his Harrisburg-area district, and thanked the PSERS trustees who selected him. The trustees - aides to the governor, teacher and school board representatives, and lawmakers - are familiar faces to Grell because he was a member of the board until January, when he was replaced by state House leaders with Rep. Stephen Bloom , also a Cumberland County Republican.
BUSINESS
March 23, 2015 | By Joseph N. DiStefano, Inquirer Staff Writer
Gov. Wolf is trying to push Wall Street out of Harrisburg. He wants the two big employee retirement systems, SERS (for state workers) and PSERS (for public school staff), to reverse their long reliance on high-fee managers. These firms collected more than $600 million in fees from the plans last year - plus a share of liquidation profits from the state's private-equity investments, which Pennsylvania doesn't count. Despite all the creative investing, years of underfunding have left SERS and PSERS with multibillion- dollar gaps between the assets they own and the checks they will owe. The shortfall has been addressed in recent years by increasing taxpayer "contributions," which Wolf wants to stabilize.
BUSINESS
February 2, 2015 | By Joseph N. DiStefano, Inquirer Staff Writer
Worn power tools, VCRs, patio furniture: Sometimes it's time to load old treasures in the trunk, head to the flea market, and see what you can get for them. The underfunded Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System has that kind of problem. As of last year, 35 percent of its $52 billion in pension assets was invested in private-equity funds, real estate, and other private investments you can't trade on the stock or bond markets. Some of these private investments were quite profitable; some lost money.
BUSINESS
October 6, 2014 | By Joseph N. DiStefano, Inquirer Staff Writer
Struggling to raise cash for future pensions without bigger taxpayer bailouts, state workers' and teachers' retirement plans in the last dozen years or so have sought higher returns by betting on "alternative" investments not traded on public markets: hedge funds, real estate, private equity. Hedge-fund managers have collected billions in fees, but their returns have mostly trailed stocks in recent years. The largest U.S. pension plan, the California Public Employees Retirement System , plans to dump its $4 billion hedge-fund portfolio, citing "complexity, cost," and the difficulty of buying enough good ones.
BUSINESS
June 3, 2014 | By Erin E. Arvedlund, Inquirer Columnist
Pennsylvania's Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS), the 18th-largest state-sponsored, defined-benefit public pension fund in the nation, runs money for more than 400,000 teachers and retirees. And PSERS likes hedge funds. But are hedge funds worth it? PSERS oversees assets of $50.4 billion. Roughly 10 percent, or $5 billion, of that is invested in hedge funds, which generally charge 2 percent of assets and 20 percent of performance annually. An index mutual fund typically charges much less, say, 0.50 percent a year.
BUSINESS
May 31, 2014 | By Joseph N. DiStefano, Inquirer Staff Writer
The underfunded Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement System has deleted contracts with "alternative investment" funds - that invest billions of dollars in teachers' retirement money - from the website of the state's Treasury Department . The decision to no longer make the contracts available for public scrutiny was confirmed Thursday by Evelyn Tatkovski , a spokeswoman for PSERS. I had asked PSERS about claims by Susan Webber , the New York financial consultant who runs the caustic website NakedCapitalism.com , that the posted documents had created a "Snowden moment.
BUSINESS
March 17, 2014 | By Joseph N. DiStefano, Inquirer Staff Writer
Why don't they just hire Vanguard ? The Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System thought some explaining was in order. PSERS needed $1.4 billion from state and local property taxpayers last year, and it expects to need $2.7 billion next year, it told legislators in February in its yearly report. That's after paying $552 million to hundreds of private investment firms - more than half the total for private equity, private debt, hedge, venture capital, commodity, and other investments you can't buy from a broker - to keep its assets from sliding farther below its liabilities.
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