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Archive for the ‘Oregon-PERS’ Category

Disclosure:  This post is both broad and detailed so that interested analysts and journalists can gather key facts and form their own opinion.   Reviewing incredible schemes such as this orchestrated by Robert Mercer and Jim Simons often attract teams of analysts and reporters.  This post is original fact checked independent research available free on the internet.

In order to understand Robert Mercer’s brilliant financial engineering,  let’s begin our analysis using three outstanding local Portland beers.  They are Rogue Brewery’s Shakespeare Stout, Widmer’s Hefeweizen and Deschutes Breweries Fresh Squeezed IPA.

All three beers are distributed by Portland based Columbia Distributing, one of the nations largest beer distributors, which was purchased by the Jim Simons controlled investment fund Meritage in 2012.  Simons along with Robert Mercer is Co-CEO of the $100 billion Rentec hedge fund.

While Meritage CEO is listed as Nat Simons, Jim Simons son,  the elder Simons holds the controlling ownership position per SEC filings, owning more than 75 percent of the Meritage fund.

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This analysis will unravel the relationship between Rentec’s Medallion fund, its company retirement plan,  the Meritage private equity fund, which purchased Columbia Distributing in 2012, and numerous tax exempt foundations including those of Jim Simons, Nat Simons and Robert Mercer.

The key to understanding this financial engineering feat is analyzing the Medallion fund, which is managed by Renaissance Technologies.  This hedge fund is indeed the unifying thread.

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See prior September 18. 2017 blog post  for important background regarding PERS adoption of age weighted IAP accounts.

Once again, it appears that younger workers are being short changed by PERS in the adoption of age weighted IAP accounts.  Remarkably, there was no opportunity for public discussion on vendor selection or strategy regarding how the age based portfolios would be constructed.

Rather, it was announced in September that the French insurance conglomerate AXA’s subsidiary Alliance Bernstein, what some call the AIG of France, would be awarded the contract to manage more than $8.2 billion in participants IAP accounts.   Some will argue that this isn’t really an $8.2 billion contract since it will simply involve reshuffling assets among participants internally.  My thought would be, tell that to the participants.

Paris Based AXA and Le Vie Bonne Courtesy of Oregon PERS

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One obvious question to PERS directors and Democratic State Treasurer Tobias Read is why a domestic vendor was not chosen for this important public contract.  All sitting members of the Oregon Investment Council were appointed by Democratic Governors.   And where were the labor unions?

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In 2004 the State of Oregon decided to isolate the “employee contribution” part of PERS and put these amounts into what are called IAP (Individual Account Program) accounts. These 200,000 IAP accounts are essentially a defined contribution program, not unlike a 401K, for which members earn returns based upon market results with no guaranteed rate of return.

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Index based investment using a company’s total stock market value is a great concept and indexes such as the S&P 500 generally provide solid low cost diversification.

Unfortunately, Wall Street has now applied this concept to “sectors” of the stock market without adjusting for the size of individual companies.  This is not only exposing investors to added risk due to poor diversification yet also handicapping newer smaller companies on which the future economy is dependent.

Let’s take a look at the two largest holdings in the MSCI Health Care Sector Index.  An index used by more than 97 percent of all large fund managers.

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This week TD Ameritrade held its annual institutional advisor conference at Cesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.  CEO Fred Tomczyk, pictured on left below, summarized TD’s strong financial position in addition to his belief that money market accounts should be about safety and stability. For this reason, TD has chosen to minimize both duration and credit risk in these accounts. Tomczyk is clearly the right person to be leading TD Ameritrade.

Tom Bradley, pictured on right below, leads the institutional area and was instrumental in successfully advocating against the Merrill Lynch brokerage exemption rule, a rule which allowed investment professionals to avoid registration with either the state or SEC.  It is now up to the SEC to take action regarding this rule which has led to such widespread abuse.

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On January 31st I posted a brief video on youtube summarizing a program in which the Oregon Investment Council is lending its securities portfolios, using State Street as an intermediary, to hedge funds and private equity firms so that they may meet the ownership standards required to conduct short selling– betting on the declines of stocks.   The video can be seen by searching for Bill Parish Public at youtube.com or by following this link: Public Pensions Fuel Short Selling.

Below is the Agenda, note this was for January 2009, it mistakenly lists Jan 2008, highlighting the review of this program in addition to a photo of Tom Motley, the representative from State Street in charge of Security Lending.

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On Sunday December 21, 2008  Oregonian columnist Steve Duin wrote a column  titled  “A fool and his trust are soon parted.”  Clearly, Oregon State Treasurer Randall Edwards, in his management of the plan, has breached his responsibility to Oregon’s parents savings for college, saddling those making conservative bond choices with losses of almost 40 percent.   President elect Obama’s home state, Illinois, also uses Oppenheimer.

In 15 years as an investment manager, perhaps the most disappointing experience for me was when Edwards, pictured below far left, and Richard Solomon, far right, who later went from the College Savings board to chair Oregon’s $70 billion PERS fund, chose Oppenheimer to be the key vendor to Oregon’s College Savings plan over Vanguard.

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