San Francisco officials on Wednesday tabled a proposal to move up to 15 percent of the city's $20 billion pension portfolio into hedge funds. The move came a day after International Business Times reported that the consultants advising the city on whether to invest in hedge funds currently operate a hedge fund based in the Cayman Islands.
The hedge fund proposal, spearheaded by the chief investment officer of the San Francisco Employees' Retirement System, or SFERS, had been scheduled for action this week. If ultimately enacted, it could move up to $3 billion of retiree money from traditional stocks and bonds into hedge funds, potentially costing taxpayers $100 million a year in additional fees.
Pension beneficiaries who oppose the proposal spoke at Wednesday's meeting of the SFERS board. They cited financial risks and the appearance of possible conflicts of interest in objecting to the hedge fund investments.
Prior to the meeting, the Service Employees International Union, which represents roughly 12,000 members who are eligible for SFERS benefits, asked city officials to have the hedge fund proposal evaluated by a consultant who has worked with boards that have opted against hedge funds.
Additionally, investor Warren Buffett recommended that SFERS trustees avoid hedge funds, and the California Public Employees Retirement System recently decided to divest its holdings in hedge funds because of their cost and complexity.
SFERS board member Herb Meiberger told IBTimes that while the hedge fund initiative has been tabled for now, the board's president, Victor Makras, still retains the power to bring it up for a vote in the future.