- Associated Press - Monday, March 23, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Representatives from Pennsylvania’s major public pension systems Monday defended the use of highly paid money managers to guide their investments, a practice Gov. Tom Wolf has criticized.

Executives from the Public School Employees’ Retirement System and the State Employees’ Retirement System testified at separate hearings of the House and Senate Appropriations committees.

The two systems paid more than $650 million last year to outside managers who oversaw high-risk investments.

Jim Grossman, chief investment officer for the $50 billion-plus school employees’ fund, said its managers not only met his board’s expectations but exceeded them by $1.2 billion. The fund invests about 20 percent of its portfolio in index funds that are managed in-house rather than by outside managers.

The $27 billion SERS fund, whose investment returns for the year ending June 30 lagged the 7.5 percent target at 6.4 percent, is in the process of reviewing its portfolio in preparation for developing a new strategic investment plan.

“We remain strong, deliberate and prudent in our investment strategies,” reducing our investment fees and expenses by more than 30 percent over the past four years, said SERS board chairman Glenn Becker.

Wolf has called hiring investment managers a waste of money and urged the systems to rein in their reliance on outside advisers.

The governor will work to move both boards “toward a more prudent investment approach that would reduce fees,” said spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan. “At this time, our approach is to work with them.”

Wolf has limited administrative control over the pension systems, which are run by independent boards that also include legislative appointees. The governor appoints two of 15 PSERS board members and six of the 11 SERS board members.

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