” As New York State comptroller, his father “saved the retirements” of countless workers, Arthur Levitt Jr. said in a speech yesterday — but he added that now those pensions, along with those of millions of other Americans, are again at risk.
In remarks to pension officials from New York and several other states, Mr. Levitt, the longest-serving chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said their world was fraught with problems, including conflicts of interest, opaque accounting and a tendency among elected officials to promise valuable benefits, then fail to set aside enough money to pay for them.
“We can’t begin to improve the fiscal standing of public pension funds until we can accurately assess their financial health,” he said.
He blamed a rule-making framework that allows softer accounting standards for governments than for corporations, and called for the repeal of the Tower Amendment, a 30-year-old law that limits the S.E.C.’s authority to police governmental accounting. The current S.E.C. chairman, Christopher Cox, has also expressed doubts about the Tower Amendment’s continuing usefulness but has not called outright for its repeal.
He expressed great concern over the practice of some pension officials of soliciting campaign contributions from Wall Street firms. “We have created a situation where workers’ retirement savings are being used for private gain,” he said.