Three Massachusetts pension fund trustees recently staged a striptease to protest the state oversight they say is stripping them of their fiduciary rights.
"It's our way of saying politely that there are problems out there. Let the boards do their own thing," said Larry Sullivan, a trustee at the $148 million Lowell Retirement System since 1990.
Mr. Sullivan made his point at a recent statewide conference, drawing on the popularity of the movie "The Full Monty." Performing with him were trustee Bill Parlow of the $165 million Brockton Contributory Retirement System, trustee Larry Driscoll of the $506 million Middlesex County Retirement Board and third-party marketing executive Kevin Walsh of Walsh Partners, Braintree, Mass.
And did they really do a full monty -- did they actually strip? Not really. All four were wearing long johns, and that's where they stopped.
The state's 107 smaller retirement systems are overseen by the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission, a state agency. Decisions made by the retirement boards must be sent to PERAC for final approval.
"It's almost as if we have a list of who we can invest with, and other management firms we can't. We deal with the consultant, review the managers and pick them. Then PERAC goes through those steps and it's like doing double and triple work, rubber-stamping it three times. Meanwhile, other systems have already hired a manager," Mr. Sullivan said.
PERAC is looking after the welfare of all state retirees, said Robert Stalnacker, PERAC executive director. Some changes have been made in the past year that allow new hirings to be approved more quickly, and other changes are in the works, he added.
An additional annoyance for some trustees is that the $25 billion Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Board is not regulated by PERAC, and does not have to go through the same approval gymnastics.