PERA investment consultant resigns

SANTA FE (KRQE) — The last fiscal year was a brutal one for the Public Employee Retirement Association and the solvency of the pension fund it manages for thousands of state workers.

Investment reports for fiscal year 2012 show that PERA's fund started with about $12.1 billion in investments in July 2011. By June 2012, those investments whittled down to $11.7 billion.

The loss of nearly $400 million year-over-year came primarily because pensioners get more money paid out than the fund takes in right now.

But an investment loss of approximately $45 million, or 0.38 percent, didn't help.

"Whenever we have a bad year it's incumbent on us to stop, pause and look at what we're doing," said Wayne Propst, PERA's executive director who was hired last May.

State records show the primary investment consulting firm for PERA, Portland-based R.V. Kuhns, was paid $388,500 to advise the agency for FY12.

Propst told KRQE News 13 PERA started the process of looking for a new investment consulting firm a few months ago.

That led to R.V. Kuhns notifying PERA it was resigning the account effective March 4. Propst says PERA has the firm Cliffwater handling consulting duties in the interim until a replacement firm can be found.

But while Propst knew about this last week, Pensions and Investment Committee Chair Sen. George Mu oz, D-Gallup, was not informed until News 13 told him about the move Thursday.

Mu oz, who is leading pension-reform efforts in the Senate this session, was not happy.

"If they're not telling us so we can tell other legislators what's really the truth so we can get at the issue, it kind of worries me," Mu oz said.

Legislative Finance Committee Director David Abbey said he was not informed either until early this week.

House Finance Chair Rep. Henry "Kiki" Saavedra, D-Albuquerque, told News 13 he didn't think that was appropriate.

"We'll try to do a better job in the future of informing all of our stakeholders," Propst said.

But Propst also emphasizes the move shouldn't have surprised anyone.

Not everyone is upset. Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, said he appreciates PERA being proactive.

"It appears to me they're moving much quicker than they have in the past in trying to make sure investment advisers that are underperforming are [shed] quickly," Smith said.

R.V. Kuhns still plays a major role in New Mexico finances. The State Investment Council pays $420,000 a year to retain the firm's consulting services for investing the state's permanent funds.

PERA reform is a major issue for lawmakers to tackle this session. At the end of FY 12, PERA was underfunded by $6.2 billion, an increase of $1.2 billion from the year before. Proposals to shore up the pension funds include lowering annual cost-of-living adjustments for employees and increasing the state contribution into public-employee pensions.

Copyright 2014 KRQE TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.
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