The man who helped oversee the city's public pension funds for eight years now says that over the last decade those pension funds have been fleeced out of $2.5 billion in fees from Wall Street middlemen.
“When you do the math on what we pay Wall Street to actively manage our funds, it’s shocking to realize that fees have not only wiped out any benefit to the funds, but have in fact cost taxpayers billions of dollars in lost returns,” Comptroller Scott Stringer told the Times.
The previous Comptroller, John Liu, had also pointed out the obscenely high cut that the money managers collected (and refused to detail the millions in "organizational costs" the biggest fund he managed paid to Wall Street firms). The fees were a central issue in Stringer's campaign for Comptroller against Eliot Spitzer, who promised to be an activist shareholder and pointed out that Stringer had served on the board of The New York City Employee Retirement System and had done nothing to mitigate the fees.
"You've got to be a steward of the fund. The job is not to be a sheriff," Mr. Stringer said, referring to Mr. Spitzer's nickname as attorney general and his plans to reform the financial sector as city comptroller.
Mr. Spitzer noted that the city's public-sector unions, along with Wall Street, are planning to spend millions of dollars to help Mr. Stringer in the election. "There's a reason the Wall Street establishment is dumping money into my opponent," Mr. Spitzer said.
The five funds are worth roughly $160 billion and represent the retirement plans of more than 700,000 city employees. According to Stringer, 97% of the increased return on the funds over the last ten years has gone to fees.
A few weeks after Stringer won the 2013 election, he said to Bloomberg News, “I’m going to take a hard look at all of our fees. We need to limit costs, ensure payments are commensurate with performance and leverage our size and relationships with other pension funds to negotiate lower fees.”