Even in the heart of the financial world, public pension funds can’t seem to get a good deal. An analysis conducted by New York’s chief fiscal officer found that the city’s public pension funds have lost $2.5 billion to Wall Street fees, the New York Times reports.
In the past decade, the chunk of pension assets invested in standard-issue stocks and bonds saw above-average returns, totaling $2 billion. But those gains were almost entirely wiped out by management fees, said Comptroller Scott Stringer, leaving pensions just $40 million above what they would have pulled in on the broader market.
In the smaller slice of assets invested in more sophisticated products, however, fees gobbled up $2.5 billion, the analysis found. Though these pricier, more esoteric investments are often justified by higher expected returns, the report finds the costs weren’t worth it.
New York’s five public pension funds hold the nest eggs of more than 700,000 public employees. At $160 billion, the funds make up the fourth-largest public pension system in the country.
The analysis was the first of its kind conducted by the city to factor in fees. “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 return,” Stringer told the Times.
The reckoning comes as states and municipalities increasingly move to reconsider their pension arrangements with investment advisers. Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf decried the high fees his state’s pensions deliver to Wall Street money managers. Last year, the country’s largest pension fund, California’s CalPERS, swore off hedge fund investments, citing costs and management issues.
“We asked a simple question: Are we getting value for the fees we’re paying to Wall Street?” Stringer told the Times. The answer, it turns out, was no.