Public Pension Managers Shine Some Sunlight on Crisis with Hawaiian Vacation

For heaven's sake, don't invest in their rail plan!Credit: Photoquest at Dreamstime.comWhen all is said and done, a crop of public pension fund managers spending a couple thousand to go to a conference in Hawaii is nothing compared to the hundreds of billions of unfunded liabilities facing several states. Still, it raises the hackles. Via California Watch:

When the head of one of the state’s largest independent pension funds received an invitation recently for his staff to attend a conference in Hawaii, his response lacked the aloha spirit.

“I don’t plan on approving anyone to attend this conference given its location. … Hawaii is just not the right message to send at this time,” William Raggio, interim general manager of the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions, warned in an email to his staff.

But other pension plans couldn’t resist. Four of the state’s 24 largest independent municipal retirement systems intend to send up to five board members each, a survey by California Watch has found.

They include the city of Los Angeles, as well as Contra Costa, Los Angeles and San Diego counties – which are short a combined $17.5 billion to pay promised retiree pension benefits, according to figures provided by the plans.

The event is the National Conference of Public Employee Retirement Systems. According to California Watch, about 1,000 people involved in various public employee pension systems are expected to attend. They note that the conference seems to know the setting is sending a bad message:

The conference website supplies board members hoping to shore up support for their expenses-paid trip a “2013 Attendance Justification Tool Kit.” The site also includes “7 Tips for Building Your Case for Attending the Annual Conference,” which suggests that trustees emphasize how the conference could help them “build a networking list” and identify ways to help “save your fund money.”

Asked why pension officials needed a tool kit to rationalize their trip to Honolulu, Hank Kim, executive director and counsel for the trade association organizing the national conference, said, “In hindsight, maybe ‘justification’ wasn’t the best choice of words.”

Conference participants defended the trip the way everybody always defends these kinds of all-expenses-paid vacations—networking and learning from each other. Maybe they’ll have a seminar on not using politics to guide pension investment decisions. Probably not, though.

Let’s hope they don’t turn to the Hawaiian government for fiscal advice. As Reason TV’s Sharif Matar and Zach Weissmueller discovered recently, that place is a mess.

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  • BarryD||

    Tar, feathers.

  • fish||

    Future retirees won't be able to afford those things....they'll just have to use their fists.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Hey, at least they know to pay their hookers enough to keep them quiet. These days, that's all we can ask our bureaucrats.

  • A Serious Man||

    You're too lenient, how about sodomy with a red-hot poker?

  • C. Anacreon||

    Reading the linked website, one finds it is not exactly a super-extravagant destination -- it is the 4000-room Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki, the site of many conventions. I've been to two medical conferences there. Flights can be had much cheaper going directly into Honolulu than to the more exotic islands of Hawaii (round-trip nonstops from LAX-HNL right now for those dates are $400 total), and the rooms are just $200/night. Check convention hotel rates for NY, Boston, Philly or Chicago if you think that is outrageous.

    The picture accompanying this article, if I'm not mistaken, is the beach at the Maui Ritz-Carlton, which is incredibly different (and a flight away) from the Waikiki area (which is more like Las Vegas, substituting a beach for the casinos, but pretty much the same tourist crowd.)

    If your argument is that pension fund managers should not have a big convention, fine; but knocking it being in Honolulu rather than a mainland city is not a worthy argument. I'm betting the trip is not a significant overall cost difference than any major mainland convention town.

  • ||

    The photo is Haunama Bay just east of Waikiki. It's MUCH nicer in photos than in person.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Maybe they could have it in a mainland city other than the ones you listed? Plus this is the NATIONAL conference so posting airfare from the closest mainland airport is very generous of you...

  • C. Anacreon||

    The article is bitching about attendees from California, though. For them attending a conference in Hawaii is likely cheaper than going to the East Coast.

    And which city would you prefer a national conference should be in that would be cheaper -- Cedar Rapids? Big conferences are held in the big cities that have the capacity and the meeting space to host them -- and enough of an attraction of their own (tourist spots, good restaurants) to entice people to attend.

    The only spot you can hold a big conference really cheaply is Las Vegas -- and just imagine the howls if a pension manager went to a convention there.

  • Fluffy||

    If they held the conference in Detroit, we could more easily believe those in attendance were there to learn.

    It would still be incredibly self-serving (conferences are always bullshit; show your damn PowerPoint in a webinar or YouTube video instead) but it would be more plausible.

  • C. Anacreon||

    Conferences like that aren't mostly about the didactic learning. You have meetings, networking events, dinners, etc that revolve around the event -- where you end up really learning things and making contacts that will assist you when you get back, far more than what you could see on a video.

    And to get people there, so you can have those peripheral events that are the true reason for a conference, you have to have it somewhere people want to visit. No one wants to go to Detroit.

    I go to 5-6 medical conferences a year. Most commonly they are in New York, Philly, Boston, DC, New Orleans, Chicago and San Francisco -- places that are magnets for people who business travel. Some other spots that have been tried by the conferences I attend, and not repeated due to poor attendance: Toronto, Atlanta, Denver (in May, so no skiing).

  • Paul.||

    “In hindsight, maybe ‘justification’ wasn’t the best choice of words.”

    You know who else used to not make the best choice of words?

  • A Serious Man||

    Dan Quayle?

  • Almanian!||

    Jimmy The Greek?

  • Generic Stranger||

    Joe Biden?

  • Libertymike||

    If you are on a public payroll, you are a mooching parasite. Of course, cops and soldiers are the worst offenders. Pussies.

  • Almanian!||

    WOMEN AND MINORITIES HURT MOST!!!11!

    Also,fried chicken.

  • gaijin||

    Why do public pensions invest in stocks if they are too risky to let individuals invest their social security contributions in the same? Shouldn't pubsec investments be patriotic and invest in US treasuries?

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    If you let people choose their own retirement investments, they might invest in socially irresponsible stocks, like guns, porn and tobacco.

  • 34lbs||

    It's not like governments ever invest retirement funds into those things....
    http://www.smh.com.au/national.....1pq6y.html

    http://www.smh.com.au/business.....22jl5.html

    Welcome to strayya mate.... but they are dropping the investments.. still fuckin tarded...

  • Gladstone||

    So here we have a cop getting charged for not investigating racial slurs against himself.

    http://www.thestar.com/news/cr.....mself.html

  • Sevo||

    “build a networking list”
    Great! Meet other sleazebags and write it off.

  • ||

    The event is the National Conference of Public Employee Retirement Systems.

    Or, NAMBLA.

  • Xenocles||

    Well they say sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    The site also includes “7 Tips for Building Your Case for Attending the Annual Conference,” which suggests that trustees emphasize how the conference could help them “build a networking list” and identify ways to help “save your fund money.”

    Government lobbying itself. This, I'm afraid, is the way of the future.

  • Xenocles||

    If I recommended a course of action that would save money I'd just get slapped down. Can't have people's empires shrink.

  • Irish||

    It's rare that I say anything nice about a pubsec pension fund manager, but I have to give William Raggio credit for at least having the common decency and common sense to turn that down.

    I guess this explains why he's an interim general manager. He's far too smart and reasonable to be permanent.

  • Almanian!||

    Anyone else watching "The Jeselnick Offensive"? Almost coughed up a lung watching last night's show just now. God bless the DVR. Patton Oswalt and Nick Kroll as guests, ultra-offensive - what's not to like?

  • ||

    click that link for the “2013 Attendance Justification Tool Kit", it is pure fucking gold. especially the guy in the "Spotlight" photo.

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