Trustees of Chicago’s failing public pension funds have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into highly speculative investments that not only have failed to realize outsize returns but also saddled them with underperforming, long-term assets that can’t be sold off, a Tribune investigation has found.
The investments, which involved buying equity stakes in businesses ranging from fast-food franchises in Mississippi to a Los Angeles grocery chain, were supposed to plug huge holes in pension fund coffers by yielding gains of up to 20 percent a year.
But a Tribune analysis of nearly 130 private equity and real estate investments made by four pension funds since 2000 found that nearly half have lost value so far. Of the $1.3 billion invested to date, the pension funds have seen just $60 million in added value on their balance sheets.
Had the funds used an equal amount to buy and hold a 30-year U.S. Treasury bond offered in 2000, they would have received $893 million in interest payments to date – and their principal investments would be secure.
The managers of the firms given contracts to manage the pensions made out quite well, however, reaping millions despite exceedingly poor performance.
Who made the mess? Friends and relatives of Mayor Richard Daley.
Some of the firms reaping rewards have connections to Mayor Richard Daley. One was co-founded by Daley’s former campaign manager David Wilhelm. Andre Rice, a Daley appointee to two public boards, runs another. City pension funds already have been criticized for investing about $60 million in a real estate firm co-founded by Daley nephew Robert Vanecko that has lost about $11 million in value, according to fund documents.
Oh…and one more factoid. The pension money flowing to Rice to invest was fulfilling a law pushed by former state Senator Emil Jones that required the hiring of minority and women-run firms to manage the money (Rice is an African-American). Jones collected $140,000 in campaign contributions from such firms. Jones was Barack Obama’s political mentor who used his power to make him a Senator.
Where has some of these investments gone?
The Tribune found that Chicago’s public pension fund money has gone to finance a bankrupt Minnesota printing company, an LA grocery chain once the focus of a gang-related federal indictment, a single-location Colorado pharmacy that had been caught up in a 220-count Medicare fraud case, and dilapidated buildings in poverty-stricken neighborhoods.
Also, one of the firms given money to run was led by the former CEO of Barack Obama’s favorite bank – Shorebank (now shuttered by the FDIC). What did he do with the money?
He invested in a string of Taco Bell franchises in a few states in the South (nice place to visit to check the investments during cold Chicago winters); a water-leasing company in Wisconsin; and a single drugstore in Denver (nice skiing out there).
Cook County taxpayers are already among the nation’s most taxed.
One party rule by Democrats and by the Daley clan and their minions (including friends of Barack Obama) have put those taxpayers in a big hole that will take many years to climb out of.
this is what one-party rule in Crook county and the city of Chicago gets you…