Teacher Retirement System Responds to Dallas Morning News Article

“Cherry picking one investment, either bad or good, amounts to viewing everything with 20/20 hindsight.”—TRS response to DMN

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) provided a response to the Dallas Morning News (DMN) story, “Texas teachers’ pension fund invests in casinos, loses $99 million.” In the response, TRS states that the reporter, “…selectively ignored relevant data, knowingly printed incorrectly calculated losses, and presented misleading or incomplete information when writing his article.”

TRTA has received numerous emails about this story. As we indicated in our last email update on this issue, we are committed to investigating this matter so that our members are comfortable with the facts and information presented in these reports. As TRS states in their response, we are all disappointed with any and every investment loss, but it is “unrealistic to expect every investment to be successful.”

The Teacher Retirement System response shows a track-record of TRS investment success. In the last three-years ended March 31, 2012, TRS made $45 billion in investment gains returning 17.8 percent per year. TRS also indicates that the $99 million loss is one tenth of one percent of the $14 billion Real Asset program at TRS.

Most TRTA members know the track-record of TRS and that its investment division has worked to find the best investments with the best terms to produce the highest possible returns for the trust. Yes, there are real questions being raised about how TRS is moving in various directions to ensure maximum return. Yes, some have raised real questions about other TRS investment policies such as the incentive compensation plan used to reward employees for their work with the fund. Yes, TRTA is working closely with our members to ensure that your questions and concerns are expressed to the TRS Board and the reasonable steps are taken to ensure the highest level of return and protection of your TRS pension system.

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas has many policies and procedures in place to protect your pension fund and the integrity of the investment process to ensure that outside political influence is not part of their decision making process. The pressure exerted on TRS from numerous outside parties (not just political figures) demands that these policies are understood and enforced.

At this time, TRTA does not have any evidence to suggest that any investment was made as part of a pay-to-play scheme or that campaign contributions were made to any elected official as a reward for a TRS investment. If evidence is provided, TRTA is certain the proper investigation would occur not only by TRS, but by all other oversight authorities connected to TRS.

We believe that good investigative journalism is a critical element of the public trust in any government institution. The Dallas Morning News and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas are both presenting information they believe is relevant. It is important to read this information and ask questions about these investment decisions.

TRTA has questioned TRS about these issues. At this time, TRTA is satisfied with answers provided by TRS about the implications of the investment gains and losses as they relate to the Station Casinos investment, as well as the $45 billion in investment gains TRS has made in the last three years.

TRS has a great burden of investing these pension trust fund assets on behalf of its 1.3 million active and retired education employees. That burden does not begin and end with their investment procedures. It has a lot to do with trust, and proving to the members, taxpayers, elected officials, and the business community that their decision making process will not be corrupted by anyone for any reason. TRS Texas has many awards and numerous accolades recognizing their ability to make solid investment decisions that have resulted in great returns for all TRS members.

TRS Texas is regarded as one of the best managed large public pension plans in the country. TRTA members’ expectations on “good fund management” also means their actions will always put the interest of the trust fund members ahead of any political figure or business interest. While all these trustees may be appointed by the Governor, their fiduciary responsibility and loyalty is to the pension fund member and no one else. This is not only our expectation, but it is what is required by the Texas Constitution.

The actions made by this agency must always reflect the prudent management of this pension fund for its members…the active and retired school employees of Texas. TRTA believes these volunteer trustees do act in your best interest. That said, TRTA will always be a part of the process watching and listening to the decisions that are made about your TRS fund. It is the responsibility of Teacher Retirement System of Texas to manage this fund in a way devoid of political influence. It is TRTA’s responsibility to be engaged in this process, watch and listen as decisions are being made, and take any action that may be necessary to help protect and improve your TRS benefits.

The TRTA Board of Directors and the TRTA staff will continue to follow this situation. We are working on additional updates to help explain the TRS investment decision process and provide details on how TRS works to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

Your questions and comments on this topic have been very helpful. We appreciate all the feedback you have provided. We are using these comments to frame our questions back to TRS on these important issues. As always, your voice is being heard and TRTA is working to get the answers to your questions.

We will keep you posted as these issues develop. (Resources: DMN article from 5-13-2012; DMN Article from 5-14-2012; TRS of Texas Response to articles)

Early Voting Underway

You may already know that the Texas Retired Teachers Association does not have a political action committee (PAC), and that we do not endorse candidates for political office. What TRTA members do, though, perhaps more than any other group is VOTE! Many of you have already gone to the polls during this important primary. Our members’ voting is the most effective way to help advance the TRTA legislative agenda and enhance our ability to make a difference in the legislative process. If you have questions about an incumbent’s work with TRTA or the bills they have sponsored or cosponsored, please feel free to contact us.

Thanks for the Great Early Response, Let’s Keep it Going!

So many of you have taken the time to renew your membership with TRTA, and at this early stage in the membership drive we want to say “Thank You!” Inside Line subscribers know the great threats we face in the coming months. Your membership is TRTA’s primary source of revenue to conduct all operations including our legislative outreach and education programs. We are grateful for all our members and appreciate your response to our recent TRTA renewal letter.

Many of you join through a local unit and we encourage all TRTA members to get involved in one of our more than 260 local chapters around the state. We also have a growing out-of-state membership that is a vital part of this organization. To all of you, thank you.

We know times are tough and there are many demands on your resources. Your confidence in and support of the Texas Retired Teachers Association is greatly appreciated. Last year was another record setting membership year. TRTA would love to tell legislators our membership has swelled to 80,000 or more! We can do it. Let your friends, fellow retirees, and colleagues know that TRTA dedicates all its time and organizational efforts to protecting and improving your TRS retirement benefits.

If you are not a member or want to know more about renewing your TRTA membership, please contact our office at 1.800.880.1650. We are open Monday through Friday from 8 AM until 5 PM. We are happy to help in any way we can.

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