Union Pensions: Crypto Madness
“94% of state and government-sponsored funds”
It recently emerged that staid Fairfax County, Virginia, has three pension funds with cryptocurrency exposure, one to an astonishing ten percent of assets or about $150,000,000.
That’s according to Edward Siedle, pensions forensic expert, writing in Forbes magazine. Siedle took issue with comments made by Hank Kim, executive director and legal counsel of the National Conference of Public Employee Retirement systems (NCPERS).
Siedle described NCPERS as
A conference promoter substantially funded by Wall Street money managers and dedicated to defending prevailing public pension practices — including the bad and the ugly.
Or to put it more bluntly, NCPERS is not an advocacy organization working solely for public pension trustees. Money managers, consultants and their ilk influence the direction of the organization and its policies. Kim describes NCPERS as a “trade organization.” The question is what is being traded?
After Siedle wrote about crypto risk and before the crash, Kim blogged that, “Siedle’s claim that your U.S. state pension is gambling away a portion of your hard-earned retirement savings on crytocurrency is simply unfounded.”
Was Kim parsing words? After all, pension assets held by a public entity aren’t anyone’s “hard-earned retirement savings.”
Maybe it was just a bit of bluff and bluster; if so, it fell flat and with disastrous timing, too.
NCPERS is like the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) where the union also compromises advocacy by accepting funds from those they are tasked with watching over, better known as letting the fox guard the hen house.
And NCPERS is the brainchild of none other than Harold Schaitberger, former president of the IAFF.
Schaitberger founded NCPERS when he was a lowly staffer at the union and rode the horse, receiving regular payments, until he finally gave it up when he was elected president of the IAFF. Some say he even weaseled a pension-type payment out of NCPERS while he was also collecting an IAFF staff pension even as he was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars as IAFF president — no penny left behind.
Schaitberger monetized NCPERS and went on to do the same at the IAFF.
NCPERS head Hank Kim worked for the IAFF before going to NCPERS, presumably with Schaitberger’s approval.
And Kim now sits on the Fairfax Uniformed Pension Board just as Harold Schaitberger once did as does a current IAFF employee with very close ties to Schaitberger.
(I also held a seat on the same board as an elected employee representative, overlapping with Schaitberger. He was, at the time, also sitting on the board of a local bank and asked me to agree to help steer retirement fund deposits to his bank; I declined. It was just another example of Schaitberger turning any situation to his direct monetary benefit, even as the conflict was blatant.)
Siedle stated that the three Fairfax pension systems don’t know for sure if the various money managers they retain have crypto exposure and if so, how much — a sorry state of affairs for sure.
Brian Morales, head of the Fairfax Uniformed System (fire/rescue and sheriffs employees) was vocal in his poor assessment of crypto likening it to “beanie babies” and “gambling.”
If you have a say in the affairs of your pension system, I’d consider hiring Siedle to vet your system for ethical compliance or have someone whom he recommends oversee that task.