Pension Cutters Bet Against Prosperity

By Gary Cohn & Bill Raden

Last week’s announcements about 2013 earnings by California’s largest public pension funds suggest the agencies may be making significant progress in shaking off the lingering after-effects of the 2008 stock market crash.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) said it rode a 25 percent run-up in stock prices to post a 16.2 percent gain for its 2013 portfolio — its best showing in a decade. For its part, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) reported an impressive 19.1 percent return on its 2013 investments, led by a 28 percent return on its stock holdings.

Can Chuck Reed's Pension-Cutting Campaign Get Off the Ground?

By Steve Mikulan

Late Monday afternoon California Attorney General Kamala Harris released the state’s official title and summary for the ballot initiative promoted by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and others to reduce the retirement benefits of state and municipal workers. Harris’ wording had been anxiously awaited by Reed and his colleagues. In 2012 a different group of pension-cutters abandoned their measure, according to the Sacramento Bee, after they tested Harris’ summary and found it would make their measure radioactive at the polls.

Pension Cutters: Bipartisan Slogans, Right-Wing Money

By Gary Cohn

Last week San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed delivered his usual speech about the benefits of slashing the retirement benefits of his city’s public employees – and why he is now pushing for a statewide ballot measure that could dramatically change the lives of hundreds of thousands of Californians. Reed’s initiative – which he characterizes as a bipartisan effort and which hasn’t yet qualified for the 2014 ballot — would allow the state and local governments to reduce retirement benefits for current employees for the years of work they perform after the measure’s changes go into effect. What was not usual about Reed’s speech was its setting: The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, 3,000 miles from California.

The 'Plot Against Pensions' Takes Aim At California

Isaiah J. PooleBy Isaiah J. Poole

David Sirota, the author of the Institute for America's Future report on "The Plot Against Pensions" that detailed the right-wing collaboration to dismantle public pension programs around the country, is now reporting in Salon that "the Enron billionaire whose former company wrecked the Golden State's economy appears to be using a shadowy Texas front group to now try to loot the Golden State's public pension system."

Pension-Cutting Ballot Initiative Revealed

By Gary Cohn

In a move to slash the retirement benefits of public employees in California, a group of mostly conservative policy advocates has been working behind the scenes on a possible 2014 ballot initiative. A copy of the still-secret draft initiative, which could dramatically impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of Californians and send a signal nationwide, has been obtained by Frying Pan News. (See the document’s text by clicking here.)

Retirement: Where Corporate Executives Make the Real Big Bucks

By Senator Mark Leno

With most of the attention focused on the rising level of CEO pay while executives are actively working, an even more important aspect of executive compensation has been overlooked. What a top corporate executive makes when he or she retires from a publicly traded corporation is an ongoing expense to the company every year for the rest of their lives, as opposed to their yearly pay, which is a one-time payment.

Walmart Special: Bentonville’s Night of the Long Knives


By Bobbi Murray

It must be so confusing to be Walmart these days. The big retailer has been rumbling along happy-faced for years– crushing local competition, squeezing labor in its stores and commanding supply chains abroad with ruthless pressure to produce at ever-lower wages and ever-faster rates. Its stock goes up, Up, UP, so Walmart stockholders have been happy stockholders.

But right now investors are off-with-their heads angry at Walmart brass –  their knives are out and  shareholders are planning to call for resignations at the June 1 Walmart stockholder’s meeting at corporate HQ in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Teachers’ Fund Lawyers-Up Against Walmart Brass

By Steven Mikulan
The Frying Pan

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) filed a lawsuit last week against current and former members of Walmart’s board of directors, and other company officers, charging them with gross violation of fiduciary duty in connection with the company’s Mexican bribery scandal. That scandal, extensively examined by a recent New York Times feature, revealed a corporation so eager to expand its Mexican operations that it ignored findings by its own investigators sent to look into the allegations.

"Vulture Capitalists" Dominate California Pension "Reform" Funders, Links to Bain Revealed

By Steven Maviglio

Nearly 60 percent of the contributions to a political committee that hopes to put two pension measures on November ballot come from three Silicon Valley venture capital firms, including one tied to Bain & Company, the controversial firm formerly headed by Mitt Romney whose practices of terminating workers and businesses has become a major issue in the Republican presidential campaign.

GOP's California Pension Reform Initiative Gets the One, Two Punch

By Steve Maviglio
California Majority Report

The truth hurts.

That's the verdict on the two GOP pension proposals that have been reviewed by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office and Attorney General.

Just before the new year, the LAO noted that the proposals would cost governments more than $1 billion per year for up to 30 years. That alone should have put a stake in the heart of the ballot measures. On top of that, the LAO also noted that the measures probably wouldn't survive in court, along with a host of other problems.

Now we learn that proponents don't have anywhere near the financial backing they claimed. The Sacramento Bee is reporting that the "Sacramento-based California Pension Reform reported raising $128,600 late last month, mostly from Silicon Valley venture capitalists."