NYC pensions to open books on private equity

The $113bn pension system, managed by Comptroller John Liu, will begin 1 July webcasting its board meetings and posting investment information online.

New York City's $113 billion pension system will provide greater public access to information about its investments, including private equity holdings, New York City Comptroller John Liu announced this week.

Starting 1 July, the system will provide webcasts of pension board meetings and online access to pension fund information, including board meetings and agendas, portfolio holdings by money managers, detailed quarterly and annual reports, according to the statement.

“Taxpayers and pensioners deserve to know how the money is being invested and spent,” Liu said in a statement. “We have always aspired to run the best performing funds – it's time we broaden our aspirations to also run the most transparent funds. In fact, greater transparency ultimately will lead to stronger performance.”

The open access includes private equity, according to a spokesperson for the Comptroller's office. “We will post information on all asset classes, including private equity,” the spokesperson said, declining to elaborate.

Pension board meetings will be webcast live and then archived on the comptroller’s website. However, the executive session of board meetings during which sensitive decisions are made will not be webcast, said Liu, who serves as investment advisor, custodian and trustee of the pension system.

Other public pensions have undergone similar initiatives to have live audio and visual feeds of board and investment committee meetings.

Last July, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas started webcasting its board meetings in an attempt to increase transparency over how it invests its pension fund. Texas TRS told PEI its pilot programme of live and on-demand webcasting was intended to “increase transparency and provide easy ways for the media and general public to stay abreast of important pension fund news”.

The California State Teachers' Retirement System agreed in 2009 to stream the audio of its board meetings over the internet after moving to its new headquarters in Sacramento. A spokesman told PEI that the pension provided “live, public audio streams of our board and committee meetings” with the streams discontinued when the meeting went into closed session.