Public pensions today all lie about the value of their liabilities (with the worst funded plans lying the most) primarily because of flaws in actuarial methodology that mask true underfunding. In the case of New Jersey the official liability value is $132 billion while the real liability number is about $250 billion.
As for the asset side the use of actuarial value instead of market as the official asset value is one lie but, in New Jersey anyway after examining in detail the value of Alternative Investments, it looks like they are also doing some more blatant lying that they get away with because they expect everybody to trust them and the professionals they buy. I don’t.
Reading between the lines of this Chicago Tribune article it looks like he’s toast politically.
The story first appeared in the International Business Times (IBT) with lots of charts under the screaming headline:
Gov. Christie Shifted Pension Cash to Wall Street, Costing New Jersey Taxpayers $3.8 Billion
Today it was picked up by AOL, Esquire, and Daily Kos all using the angle that Christie wants to take money from retirees barely scrimping by so he can give it to his Wall Street friends who then donate to political campaigns of his choosing. But is that the real story?
The template is Detroit where pension funds that were officially 95% funded (using the flawed methodologies designed to understate contributions that every other public pension plan in the country uses) until the bankruptcy lawyers hired Milliman to provide a more convenient number for them. Unfortunately New Jersey can’t avail themselves of Milliman’s ‘Ministry of Truth division’ since they already use Milliman to provide other phony numbers for their Teachers’ Plan so a pension panel will have to do.
The Star-Ledger, a propaganda arm of whatever government entity supplies them with legal-ad revenues, did a fluff piece on the panel and its chairman today in which we learned:
Nothing much going on this time of year but did you know:
- How the New Jersey Pension Panel set up by Executive Order 161 is progressing;
- That a previous Executive Order (138) set up a Pension Fraud and Abuse Unit within the Department of the Treasury;
- How illegal immigrants get action; or
- That Todd Snider wrote a book?
They may still use the name but as of September 8, 2014 NJ Advance Media, according to their website, will launch content operations (with 6 people including the current editor-in-chief of the Star Ledger) on September 8, 2014. Sales and Marketing, with 14 people, is presumably already launched. According to the linkedin page of its president Matt Kraner:
Panels of experts or letter writers and anonymous commenters?
On August 7, 2014 Paul Mulshine of the Star Ledger wrote a confusing piece on the New Jersey pension mess that overstated the roles of the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) to which I commented and got a response.