A09643 Summary:

Amd S177, R & SS L
Increases the portion of public pension fund assets that may be invested according to the prudent investor standard.
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A09643 Actions:

05/13/2014referred to governmental employees
06/11/2014reference changed to ways and means
06/12/2014reported referred to rules
06/12/2014amend and recommit to rules 9643a
06/16/2014rules report cal.316
06/16/2014ordered to third reading rules cal.316
06/18/2014passed assembly
06/18/2014delivered to senate
06/19/2014SUBSTITUTED FOR S7331A
06/19/20143RD READING CAL.995
12/05/2014delivered to governor
12/17/2014vetoed memo.552
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A09643 Memo:

submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
SPONSOR: Farrell (MS)
  TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the retirement and social security law, in relation to investments by public pension funds   PURPOSE: This bill increases the portion of public pension fund assets that may be invested.   SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: Section 1 amends paragraph 1 of subdivision 9 of section 177 of the Retirement and Social Security Law to increase from 25% to 30% the portion of a public pension fund's assets that may be invested. Section 2 provides for an immediate effective date.   DISCUSSION: In order to maximize risk-adjusted returns and meet its actuarial targets, the New York City Retirement Systems (NYCRS) has increased its exposure to alternative investment classes over time. This action was in keeping with the evolution of capital markets and in line with the actions of other large government pension funds. As the invest- ment advisors and trustees look forward to the market challenges that lay ahead, they see the need to increase the basket clause limit from 25% to, 30%. This limit will allow for a superior risk-adjusted portfo- lio and for additional flexibility to reduce portfolio volatility while maintaining superior returns. In addition, this change would better equip the funds' advisors and trustees to tactically manage the invest- ments to take advantage of market trends, react to market shocks and avoid potentially costly rebalances or unwinds at inopportune times. The basket clause has been increased multiple times. The original basket clause limit was established at 5% in 1982. The law was amended in 1987 to increase the limit to 7.5%, in 1997 to 15%, and in 2006 to 25%. With each increase, public pension funds have been in a better position to manage volatility. The current 25% limitation on basket clause invest- ments provides a relatively small allocation to non-legal list invest- ments through the 25% basket clause allocation.   RATIONALE FOR THE CHANGE: As discussed below, volatility and illi- quidity prevent NYCRS from using the entire allocation. As a result, investments that could provide diversification - such as certain high yield bonds, bonds denominated in foreign currencies, various commod- ities, and other investments - are not available to NYCRS. The current twenty five percent limitation on basket investments has become problematic given current low expected market returns. Under the current 25% cap, most of the investments allocated to the basket are illiquid, long-term private equity partnerships. In addition, NYCRS' international investments, to the extent they exceed the 5% permitted by the legal list, must be counted against the basket cap. The private equity investments involve a long-term commitment for NYCRS to make additional investments, and the timing of these investments is subject to ever-changing market conditions and is difficult to forecast. NYCRS must account for both the actual value of private equity invest- ments as well as future contractual commitments to provide capital when measuring compliance with the 25% basket clause allocation. The portion of the NYCRS portfolios allocated to public equities is much more volatile than the investments allocated to the basket. As a result, a swing in public markets can push NYCRS dangerously close to the investment cap with no new investments. Expansion of the basket to 30% is critical in providing public pension advisors and trustees greater ability to mitigate market volatility and structure superior risk-adjusted portfolios. Increasing a fund's ability to invest according to the expanded standard will result in increased flexibility, thereby enabling trustees to monitor investments closely without restricting their ability to respond effectively to changing market conditions.   CONCLUSION: In sum, NYCRS is prevented from creating an optimal investment portfolio. The current 25% limitation on the basket clause investments prevents NYCRS from investing in a number of attractive asset classes and strategies.
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