Wednesday, February 17, 2010

State Street Bank and CalPERS Assets

I read in the paper that CalPERS isn't going to fire State Street Bank, a corporation with at least 25,000 people in 9 sub-corporations, not every department of which may be 100% honest and transparent. Reportedly, State Street provides CalPERS with several types of services, ranging from custodial and administrative to investment management. It appears that State Street has gobbled up much of its competition during its relationship with CalPERS, which goes back to at least 1999.
It's not entirely clear whether or not State Street is managing members' deferred compensation accounts, although that does seem to be a service they offer. DPA says Nationwide Retirement Solutions manages it via their service center site, although at the bottom it says "Retirement Specialists are Registered Representatives of Nationwide Investment Services Corporation," a member of FINRA, and in turn a part of Nationwide Financial Services, Inc., (look, the logo matches!) which apparently is now privately held by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. I may have gotten lost and started going in circles here, but nonetheless I have to say Savings Plus has done all right by me. They offer me funds that perform consistently with their descriptions - bonds, stocks, risk levels - and I choose what works.
Unfortunately, it appears that both Nationwide's and State Street's awareness of sustainable investment is very superficial. While they say they are committed to reducing the environmental footprint of their own operations, they seem unconscious of any impact of climate change on the economics of pension investment.
Such myopia on the part of anyone whose livelihood depends on achieving numerical monetary targets like an average 7.75% return is not surprising. Their 'economic' vision reads just like that of the editors of The Economist - it's all about monetary growth and never mind all the refugees. But even on that front, mortgage-related challenges still lurk, not to mention ancillary market distortions.
But future monetary returns depend on a real economy that is healthy. Economies with millions of homeless refugees displaced by capitalist numerical ideologies are not healthy economies. I know there are at least one or two other paradigms available.
When will the CalPERS Board talk about paradigms outside of the monetary-growth box?

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