Press Release

AFT Report Reveals Asset Managers’ Hypocritical Assault on Workers’ Retirements

For Release:


Oriana Korin

WASHINGTON—A new edition of an influential report published by the American Federation of Teachers exposes Wall Street asset managers who earn millions in fees from defined-benefit pension plans while simultaneously taking actions that can undermine their very existence.

“Ranking Asset Managers: A Retirement Security Report on Money Managers for Pension Fund Trustees” (sixth edition), distributed this morning at the Council of Institutional Investors’ Spring Conference, includes a “watch list” of managers who earn fees from investing workers’ defined-benefit pensions while also working behind the scenes to diminish or eliminate those plans.

Workers’ retirement security should not be a Wall Street gamble. Our immediate goal is to make sure the public, our members and public pension trustees are aware of the named managers’ actions. Our long-term goal is retirement security for all.

Disturbingly, some named asset managers have supported initiatives that may harm the retirement security of defined-benefit plan participants, to whom trustees have a formal fiduciary duty.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “Asset managers can’t have it both ways. Trustees have a fiduciary duty to ensure workers’ capital is invested in a fiscally prudent manner. Managers, who make a living as defined-benefit plan investors, cannot, in the next breath, attack those same plans. The AFT will continue to liaise closely with the AFT Trustee Council to identify how best to safeguard workers’ retirement security from those who would prefer to undermine it.”

The sixth edition of “Ranking Asset Managers” exposes managers who assist think tanks, political committees and other organizations attacking defined-benefit plans through legislative action and other political tactics. Bellwether Education Partners, the Reason Foundation and the Illinois Policy Institute are among those named for the first time because of their hostility to these plans.

The report again documents the activities of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who continues to benefit from defined-benefit pension plans while also agitating for their dismantling, as well as the Manhattan Institute, the Show-Me Institute and StudentsFirstNY.

Transparency yields accountability. In the years following the release of the AFT’s first watch list, several investment managers have severed ties with anti-defined-benefit organizations. For example, Rex Sinquefield quit the board of Dimensional Fund Advisors, an investment company he founded, and partners at AQR Capital Management and Court Square Capital Partners left the board of the Manhattan Institute. Over the last few years, several fund managers—after being included on the AFT’s watch list—have pledged not to donate to organizations that undermine retirement security.

The report concludes with the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems’ “Code of Conduct for Public Pension Service Providers,” a set of voluntary ethical guidelines designed to protect the interests of plan participants and beneficiaries, along with a set of recommendations for pension plan trustees wishing to consider secondary factors as part of their decision-making process.

The AFT will continue to periodically update this 2018 edition. A guide for trustees on gun-related investments in their portfolios and the steps pension funds and other investors have taken to address this risk is also in the pipeline.

The full report is available here.

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.