Why Board Member and Vocal Critic of CalPERS Margaret Brown Needs to Stay The Course

By Curtis Loftis, Treasurer of South Carolina

Ms. Margaret Brown’s trials are reminiscent of my own experience with a pension board that preferred to talk about transparency and fiduciary responsibility rather than practice it.

I was inaugurated in 2011 and found the South Carolina Retirement System Investment Commission (SCRISC) paying as much as $458 million in fees while disclosing approximately half of fees paid, entering into investment agreements that were not “for the benefit of the participants “and prohibiting fiduciaries from viewing information needed to fulfill their duties.

SCRIC was skillful at telling “part of their story” and anyone attempting to complete their version was not welcomed.

Over the next few years I was a sincere but vocal critic of their practices and for my trouble I was investigated three times by the legislature, reported to the SEC, hauled before the Supreme Court and publicly censured (without any prior notice) for my actions and beliefs.

Ms. Brown may find great personal satisfaction if she can continue her course. Five years after my odyssey began, the SCRISC is a different place, with different leadership and their enhanced performances and transparency demonstrates that the good fight is worth the effort. She will never be thanked for her efforts as the complexity of these issues does not lend itself to mass understanding and the influence of the pension plan will thwart most of the media attention. However, she will know of her service to the participants and the taxpayers.

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5 comments

  1. Clive

    Thank you so much Curtis. Everything you write is true. I know just how hard it is to, as you say, stay the course and try to wrestle even small improvements in what are fundamentally damaged and decayed institutions (and I’m too compromised to do anything much more than a token chipping away at the edges).

    Margaret has shown implacable devotion to her work. Long may that continue.

    Reply
  2. The Rev Kev

    She should totally stay as you never know what is coming down the pike. Here is Australia there is a banking inquiry that has recently started to take evidence and it has already taken the scalps of several top executives of AMP, a top financial services company here, including the Chairman and the CEO. And it happened just like that and is not over yet – not by a long shot. No, she should totally stay.

    Reply
  3. divadab

    Thank you, Mr. Loftis, for your service. No good deed goes unpunished when you are standing up against vested interests! It’s a tough job, and we are all better off for people like you and Margaret Brown who take the slings and arrows on our behalf.

    Reply
  4. Norb

    Whenever those around me are on the verge of submitting to despair and negativity, I always point out that there are people out there fighting the good fight. The attitude that everyone is corrupt and submission is the only way is just infuriating. Not to mention, the idea of if you can’t beat them, join them. That thinking leads down the road to moral bankruptcy.

    When more people once again realize it is better to be poor and retain some personal integrity, than rich, but morally bankrupt, things will most likely change very quickly. Ending poverty is not just a matter of money.

    Here is to doing what is right.

    Reply
    1. False Solace

      There is good in this world and it’s worth fighting for. Fighting is important, even when you lose.

      “She will never be thanked for her efforts” — so true. If solving problems were easy, the world wouldn’t have so many.

      Reply

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