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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 3, 2014

Treasurer Cowell Urges House to Pass Pension Investment Transparency Measure

RALEIGH, N.C.  – State Treasurer Janet Cowell today called on the North Carolina House of Representatives to pass legislation expanding investment oversight and transparency for the $87 billion pension fund for teachers and state and local employees. The Retirement Investment Accountability measure (House Bill 1209) was introduced by Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake), Rep. Jeff Collins (R-Nash), Rep. Stephen Ross (R-Alamance) and Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland).  The bill was unanimously recommended by the Investment Fiduciary Governance Commission, an independent, bipartisan commission Cowell appointed in January.

“We can better protect and grow the pension fund for the benefit of current and future retirees while also increasing accountability and transparency,” Cowell said. “House Bill 1209 strikes the right balance and protects the integrity and quality of our nationally recognized pension and investment systems and puts into law many of the reforms enacted during my term.”

House Bill 1209 would:

  • Enhance the State’s existing audit by requiring financial statements, audited by a commercial independent third-party firm for the Retirement Systems investment program. This audit will result in an independent public report reviewing valuations, compliance, policies, performance and costs specific to the investment operation, including comparisons to benchmarks and peer pension operations.
  • Require that the Treasurer engage an independent performance review of the State’s investment practices every four years, matching Department of State Treasurer practice since 2009.
  • Expand and modernize reporting for each Retirement Systems external investment to the General Assembly and public. Parts of this bill go further in reporting requirements than almost any other state.
  • Clarify public records laws pertaining to the investment program. The bill places a sunset on the confidentiality of investment contracts, while making all information in them available to the General Assembly and the State Auditor at any time, even if that information is not public record.  This important provision will provide transparency and accountability for active contracts while maintaining the integrity of proprietary and confidential private-sector information.
  • Provide additional resource flexibility, including greater ability to determine the size of the State’s investment staff consistent with the Treasurer’s fiduciary duties to the trust funds.

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The North Carolina Retirement Systems, the formal name for the pension fund, is the eleventh largest public pension fund in the country. It provides retirement benefits and savings for more than 875,000 North Carolinians, including teachers, state employees, firefighters, police officers and other public workers. For more information, visit www.nctreasurer.com.

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