Just as the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting learned eight months ago, a Louisville high school teacher has been told that financial details about his state-funded retirement plan are secret and can’t be disclosed.
Randolph Wieck, a history teacher at DuPont Manual High School, sent an open records request Oct. 28 to the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System, which covers more than 140,000 school system workers statewide. Wieck asked for details of the contracts with some of the investment firms that manage part of KTRS’ $18 billion-plus in assets.
Wieck, who recently filed a lawsuit against the teachers’ pension system, wants to know what his retirement money is being invested in—and how much in fees KTRS is paying to big private equity firms. Among the funds he asked for details on were the Carlyle Global Financial Services Partners II fund and the Blackstone Partners VII L.P. fund.
KTRS denied his request in a Nov. 26 letter. Because KTRS agreed with the investment firms to keep contract details secret, it told Wieck that state law forbade it from disclosing them.
“Disclosure of these trade secrets would permit an unfair commercial advantage to their competitors,” wrote KTRS General Counsel Robert Barnes.
Kentucky state Rep. Jim Wayne has pre-filed a bill that would make state pension plan contracts subject to competitive bidding and open-records laws. That will be taken up in the 2015 legislative session.
But KTRS—and the larger Kentucky Retirement Systems—could make such a law unnecessary by avoiding secret deals with high-fee investment firms in the first place. The so-called “alternative investments” that they buy do serve as a hedge against bear stock markets and low-yielding bond markets, but have generally underperformed low-fee stock market index funds since the bull market began in March 2009.
The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting had sought details about the hedge fund and private equity fund holdings of KRS. It received documents with the holdings and much of the financial data whited out.
Reporter James McNair can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (502) 814.6543.