Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Tag Archives: Pension

From Hero to Zero: $2-Billion Private Equity Fund Goes Broke in Oil

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, July 17, 2017:  

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo

EnerVest Ltd., a Houston-based private equity firm run by John Walker, is being taken over by Wells Fargo, one of its largest lenders, to satisfy its unpaid debts. The firm raised capital from large investors, foundations, and pension plans and bought existing oil wells, improved them, and sent the dividends back to the investors.

In 2011, it had come off a very successful year. It owned 19,000 onshore oil wells on four million acres of land in 12 states. Its previous investments delivered a compounded annual return of 36 percent, a track record that made it relatively easy for Walker to raise additional capital. In a classic understatement, Walker said, “We had an outstanding year.” He explained just how he and his company did it; he bought cheap and sold dear, without using borrowed funds:

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Illinois Republicans Override Governor’s Vetoes, Stiff Taxpayers in Budget Deal

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, July 7, 2017:

Lisa Madigan, Illinois state attorney general,...

Lisa Madigan. step-daughter of Michael Madigan, and, not surprisingly, Illinois’ state Attorney General. Just a coincidence.

When House Speaker Michael Madigan finally engineered the override of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of his budget bill on Thursday, he called it a victory:

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The Wall Street Journal Tells Investors Not to Worry About Illinois. Really.

This article was published by the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, June 30, 2017:

Seal of Illinois. Center image extracted from ...

Seal of Illinois.

The Journal declared that although the state of Illinois is in deep trouble, that shouldnt be troubling to those investors holding billions of the states debt that is about to be downgraded to junk. On Saturday morning, barring a miracle, S&P Global will keep its promise and announce that Illinoiss debt rating is being reduced by at least one more notch, to junk status.

The Journal said that downgrade reflects the fact that the state faces large uncertainties and has major exposure to adverse conditions. But none of those need bother investors, said the Journal. Even though several bond mutual funds have bailed since the first of the year, offloading an estimated $2 billion of the states $25 billion in investor-owned debt, the Vanguard Group is standing firm. It has the largest exposure to Illinois in its seven mutual funds, holding $1.2 billion of its debt and claiming that it is comfortable with (its) risk/reward.

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Illinois Countdown to Junk Status Continues

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, June 29, 2017:

English: IL State Rep. Susana Mendoza 2011 Pho...

Susana Mendoza

Despite the clock’s ticking on the downgrade of Illinois’ $25 billion of indebtedness to junk status on midnight Friday, investors remain complacent. True, some mutual funds have offloaded $2 billion of Illinois debt in the last few months, but the Wall Street Journal provided salve to investors’ concerns that those remaining invested will be badly hurt. Unnamed analysts, wrote the Journal, “predict prices would drop only a few cents in the event of a junk downgrade.” They noted that Vanguard Group has $1.2 billion of Illinois bonds spread across seven of its bond mutual funds, with a company spokesman saying that it is “comfortable with the risk/reward” of investing in the state’s bonds.

Besides,

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Illinois Governor calls for “Unity,” Offers “Compromise” that is a “Capitulation”

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, June 23, 2017: 

When politicians call for unity, they usually mean “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.” In the case of Illinois, Governor Bruce Rauner (shown)’s Tuesday night closed door compromise offer to intransigent Democrats to get them to agree to a budget before the June 30 deadline was called a capitulation by The Wall Street Journal:

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Illinois Governor Gives Tax Increases to Placate Democrats Before Deadline

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, June 22, 2017: 

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (shown), speaking briefly to a closed session at the state house on Tuesday night, urged “unity” in solving the state’s staggering and rapidly accelerating financial problems. Those present reported afterward that the governor declared, “Failure to act [on his budget proposal] is not an option. Failure to act may cause permanent damage to our state that will take years to overcome.”

The state has already suffered massive damage.

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Is Illinois Admitting that it is a “Failed State”?

This article was published by TheMcAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, June 16, 2017:

The Constitution guarantees every state a republican form of government. Other than that it focuses on the legitimate functions of the national or federal government. The states were invited, as most of them did, to adopt similar state constitutions, limiting state powers to providing essential services: courts, police protection and, over time, other services like power, fire protection, roads, and the like.

There are global indexes of failed states, with many of them naming Somalia as the best (worst) example: crime, corruption, short life spans, poor medical help, and wrenching poverty are the rule there. But with its admission that it can no longer pay general contractors to construct its roads, is Illinois becoming a failed state? Those contractors just received this letter from Illinois:

Dear Contractor:

At this time appropriate funding is not available after June 30, 2017. Thus, work shall cease effective June 30, 2017.

Please bring all projects to a condition that will provide a clear and safely traveled way….

On July 1, 2017, all work shall cease except for maintenance … the department will notify you when work may resume.

Right now the state has $14.5 billion in unpaid bills, an increase of nearly $4 billion just since the end of December, with no end in sight. When Republican Governor Bruce Rauner (above) took office in January 2015 he promised he would bring order out of chaos by cutting government spending, and reining in out-of-control pension benefits and excessive teacher and administrative salaries. In brief, he managed to challenge directly state House speaker Michael Madigan, who, along with Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, has sold out to the teacher unions. When Rauner proposed cutting pension plan contributions, the Supreme Court ruled that he couldn’t – that the state constitution guaranteed that the contracts were inviolable and fully enforceable. That’s when things went downhill. With no possible agreement over state spending – the state has been operating on a pay-as-you-go basis without a budget for nearly three years – unpaid bills began piling up as those contributions had to be paid first and other creditors were forced to take a back seat.

Mathematics and politics are directing Illinois’ future. The math is daunting: with $130 billion in unfunded pension liabilities (which continue to increase despite making the state making the court-required contributions), $14 billion in unpaid bills (and increasing daily), wealthy companies and individuals leaving (Illinois leads the nation in depopulation), property and sales taxes among the highest in the nation, and credit ratings that are eight full notches below the other states in the union, there’s no place to go but down from here.

The state’s inability to rein in its spending has caused a ripple effect, touching the state’s institutions of higher learning. They have been forced to raise tuition and borrow just to stay open and now the credit rating agencies have been busy downgrading their debt issues as well. On June 9, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded seven Illinois universities, with five of them now rated as junk.

As the Illinois Policy Institute noted, the budget stalemate “has led to cuts in state appropriations to Illinois universities. But the universities’ financial difficulties started [long] before the state’s budget gridlock and are largely of their own doing. Illinois colleges and universities have long overspent on bloated bureaucracies and expensive compensation and benefits, prioritizing administrators over students.”

On Wednesday, the president of one of those seven universities just downgraded – Northern Illinois University’s Doug Baker – suddenly announced that he will resign at the end of the month. This followed a bombshell state watchdog report that he and his administrators skirted state bidding requirements by improperly hiring consultants and paying them exorbitant salaries and benefits.

With the millions being poured into the state in support of a Democrat to replace Rauner in 2018, his initial support is melting away. Two-thirds of the populace supported Rauner in 2015, but as of March that support is less than forty percent.

If Rauner is replaced by a Democrat in 2018, then the combination of Democrat policies (and politics) and mathematical inevitability will turn Illinois into a failed state: unable to protect its citizens (see Chicago crime statistics), unable to build and maintain its roads, protecting one class of citizens at the expense of another, and unable to provide education for its citizens or a healthy regulatory climate for small businesses.

If Illinois isn’t a failed state, it will become one shortly. Just ask the general contractors who just received the “Dear Contractor” letter.


Sources:

Illinois Policy Institute: ILLINOIS’ UNPAID BILLS JUMP TO $14.3B

MishTalk.com: Unable to Pay Bills, Illinois Sends “Dear Contractor” Letter Telling Firms to Halt Road Work on July 1

Illinois Policy Institute: MOODY’S DOWNGRADES 7 ILLINOIS UNIVERSITIES, 5 ARE JUNK

Politico: How Illinois became America’s failed state

Heritage.org: Illinois: The Anatomy of a Failed Liberal State

Chicago Tribune: Miller: Illinois in danger of becoming a failed state

Definition of a Failed State

Chicago Tribune: Northern Illinois University president to resign after report alleges mismanagement

 

Illinois Sends “Dear Contractor” Letters Ordering Them to Stop All Road Construction

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, June 15, 2017: 

English: A photograph of the Springfield Capit...

A photograph of the Springfield Capitol Building

Illinois contractors working on the state’s roads just received a “Dear Contractor” letter from the state ordering them to halt work because the state is out of money to pay them:

At this time appropriate funding is not available after June 30, 2017. Thus, work shall cease effective June 30, 2017.

Please bring all projects to a condition that will provide a clear and safely traveled way….

On July 1, 2017, all work shall cease except for maintenance.… The department will notify you when work may resume.

Right now the state has $14.5 billion in unpaid bills, an increase of nearly $4 billion just since the end of December, with no end in sight. When Republican Governor Bruce Rauner took office in January 2015, he promised he would bring order out of chaos by

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Puerto Rico’s Vote for Statehood Means Nothing

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, June 12, 2017:

Despite 97 percent of Puerto Ricans voting for statehood in Sunday’s plebescite, the chances of adding the island as the country’s 51st state are between slim and none.

The island’s voters had three choices on Sunday’s ballot: Stay as a U.S. territory, move ahead with statehood, or seek full independence as a sovereign nation. This is the fifth vote on the issue since 1967, with the first three failing to gain a majority vote for statehood. That majority is required for the U.S. Congress to consider it. The fourth vote was marred by some 500,000 voters boycotting it to protest the ballot allegedly being rigged in favor of statehood.

The chances this time aren’t any better.

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Puerto Rico’s Governor Seeks an American Taxpayer Bailout

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, June 12, 2017:

Ever since he announced his campaign for governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, who was installed as the island’s new governor in January, has been pushing for statehood. Offloading his country’s financial problems onto American taxpayers is the American way. By gaining statehood, Puerto Rico would be poorer than Mississippi, the poorest of the American states, and therefore would be the likely recipient of federal largesse by the truckload. As Rossello said so clearly,

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Aetna Next to Leave Connecticut for Better Business Climate

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, June 6, 2017: 

Aetna Insurance Company and Aetna National Ban...

Aetna Insurance Company and Aetna National Bank, Hartford, Conn, from Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views

Aetna, the $50 billion health insurer that has had its headquarters in Hartford, Connecticut, since 1853, confirmed rumors last week that it was looking to move out of state. The company said, “We are in negotiations with several states regarding a headquarters relocation, with the goal of broadening our access to innovation and the talent that will fill knowledge-economy type positions … and hope to have a final resolution by early summer.”

Hartford’s Mayor Luke Bronin expressed his disappointment:

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Hartford, Connecticut’s Troubles Mounting; Looking to Invoke Bankruptcy

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, June 6, 2017:  

The Connecticut State Capitol in downtown Hartford

The Connecticut State Capitol in downtown Hartford

Joseph De Avila, writing in the Wall Street Journal following Aetna’s announcement of its imminent departure from Hartford for more business-friendly climes, used the “B” word: “Hartford, Connecticut’s capital city and hub of the state’s insurance industry, is edging closer to a small club of American municipalities: those that have sought bankruptcy protection.”

As a hanging tends to focus the mind, so is Aetna’s departure focusing more and more attention on Hartford’s financial problems and, to a greater extent, those of the state of Connecticut itself. After being headquartered in Hartford since before the Civil War, Aetna said

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What’s Wrong with Connecticut?

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, June 5, 2017: 

English: Aetna building in Hartford, Connectic...

Aetna building in Hartford, Connecticut

The state has a staggering deficit of more than $5 billion, home prices are about where they were a decade ago, unemployment is rising (not falling as it is elsewhere in the northeast), and big companies who have been there for decades are leaving.

What is going on?

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Puerto Rico Headed to Bankruptcy Court, Likely Costing Investors Billions

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, May 3, 2017: 

English: Map of Peuto Rico, with inset showing...

The federal fiscal oversight board created by Congress last June to fix Puerto Rico gave up on Monday, putting the island country into the hands of a federal bankruptcy judge.

The board, created last June, was designed to help newly elected Governor Ricardo Rossello come to terms with mutual funds and hedge fund owners that own the bulk of the island’s $73 billion debt. Rossello’s first effort, which would have applied a one-third financial “haircut” to them was turned down by the board, which called it too generous.

Rossello’s second effort would have applied a 50-percent haircut, but Franklin Advisers and Oppenheimer Fund, the two largest entities holding the island’s debt, pushed back.

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Pew Research: Gap Between Promises and Assets Widens for State Pensions

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, April 24, 2017:

A RETIRED COUPLE FROM CALIFORNIA STOP TO FISH ...

After reviewing the investment results for 230 public pension plans for the last two years, Pew reported last Thursday that, despite strong recent stock market performance, the gap between liabilities (promises) and assets for those plans widened by 17 percent, to $1.4 trillion. Put another way, those plans should have nearly $4 trillion in assets to enable them to keep their promises. The latest data shows them with just over $2.5 trillion instead.

Said Greg Mennis, director of the project,

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Three Stock Market Indicators Spell Trouble for Pension Fund Managers

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, April 24, 2017:

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...

Warren Buffett

Michael Lombardi is a bear. Canadian-born, Lombardi has been dishing out investment advice for decades. He is getting nervous. And so should pension fund managers trying to make up for lost time.

In his March newsletter, Lombardi looked at the Warren Buffett Indicator:

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Growing Pension Crisis Looms Over Wall Street

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, March 27, 2017:

Logo of the United States Pension Benefit Guar...

Logo of the United States Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

The looming state and municipal pension plan crisis, estimated by Moody’s at $1.75 trillion just a few months ago, has now been adjusted upward to  $1.9 trillion. But that number, according to Bloomberg’s Danielle DiMartino Booth, greatly underestimates the level of underfunding. It’s more like $6 trillion “if the prevailing yields on Treasuries were used.”

Instead, most state and local pension plans use a much higher, more generous, and more deceptive assumed rate of return of between six and seven percent, with some still clinging to a “castles in the sky” eight percent. Those assumptions greatly reduce the pressure on plan sponsors to make proper contributions to fund those plans.

And, according to the investment firm GMO (Grantham, Mayo & van Otterloo),

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The PBGC is Falling. Where is Superman When He is Needed?

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, March 3, 2017:

In the 1978 film Superman, Lois Lane is caught mid-air by Superman who says: “Easy, miss. I’ve got you.” Responds Lois: “You – you’ve got me? Who’s got you?

Concerning government agencies making promises, the answer is always and everlastingly: the U.S. taxpayer.

For example, consider the 42-year-old government agency backing up single-employer and multi-employer pension plans:

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Federal Insurance Agency Backing Union Pensions Facing Crisis Itself

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, March 2, 2017: 

Logo of the United States Pension Benefit Guar...

When Teamsters Local 707’s pension plan ran out of money in February, it sought assistance from the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Said PBGC Director Tom Reeder:

This is a big issue for us. It’s a big issue for Local 707 and it’s a big issue for others in the same situation across the country.

 

We’re projected to run out of money in eight to 10 years. Many union pension plans are projected to run out in 20 years.

The federal insurance agency is now paying out $1.7 million every month to the stranded retirees of Local 707.

707’s problems have been decades in the making.

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Update on Warren Buffett’s “The Bet” (or How Your Money Finds Its Way to Wall Street)

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, March 1, 2017:

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students from the Kansas University School of Business (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the latest shareholder letter just released by Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett brought his fans up to date on “The Bet.” On its face it seems simple: Buffett was willing to bet good money that any S&P 500 index fund would beat, over a period of time, the performance of the best money managers in the business. But no one took him up on his wager:

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Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.