A lawsuit was filed in the Ohio Supreme Court to force the $89.5 billion Ohio State Teachers Retirement System, Columbus, to release unredacted reports related to the pension fund's alternative investments.
The writ of mandamus complaint was filed May 21 by Edward Siedle against the pension fund and CEM Benchmarking Inc., seeking unredacted reports related to the pension fund's alternative investment management fees, costs and expenses.
Mr. Siedle is an attorney and president of Benchmark Financial Services Inc., which was hired by the Ohio Retired Teachers Association in October to perform a forensic audit on the teachers retirement system.
According to the court filing, Mr. Siedle requested records in February for all reports and analysis produced by CEM Benchmarking related to alternative investments, and received five investment cost effective analysis reports prepared by CEM Benchmarking dated from 2015 to 2019, which included heavily redacted information. The court filing said CEM Benchmarking informed Benchmark Financial Services the redacted information was related to proprietary information it had classified as trade secrets in its auditing methodology.
In a May 7 phone interview, Robin Rayfield, executive director of ORTA, said the pension fund "wants to share information that paints them in a good light and absolutely does not share anything that puts them in a bad light, so it's terrible that we have to sue our own pension system to know where our money is invested."
Benchmark Financial Services said in the filing, "CEM also redacted data about STRS's performance, including investment costs, outside money manager fees, and performance information on STRS's investments. All that information is provided by STRS staff to CEM , which CEM then analyzes. CEM offered no explanation as to how it can claim that STRS's own internal data can be CEM's trade secret."
Pension fund spokesman Nick Treneff said in an email: “STRS Ohio has provided more than 800 documents in response to the public records request we received in late February — totaling more than 22,000 pages. This includes documents from CEM Benchmarking. We have fully complied with the law in response to this request.”