For some reason, groups like PERA and ColoradoWINS, who receive taxpayer dollars, feel that they are not obligated to be transparent with those taxpayer funds. In the case of the Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA), State Treasurer Walker Stapleton feels differently and is in a position to do something about it — so he sued PERA for refusing to allow him access to essential financial data.
Stapleton wanted access to data for the top 20% of beneficiaries, like the age of retirement and last five years of salary, without employee names, so he could begin to understand how exactly PERA has dug a deficit hole of $21 Billion in unfunded liabilities.
In denying Stapleton access to essential data, PERA gave a litany of tired and specious excuses, like claiming it would cost too much money or the data wasn't essential to Stapleton's job — claims that The Denver Post editorial board called "either laughable or concerning."
Not allowing Stapleton access to the data, so he can get a sense of where the problems lie, is equivalent to telling your accountant planning your retirement that they have no right or need to see your income for the last couple of years. It's a ridiculous attempt at blocking Stapleton from information essential to his duty as State Treasurer and as a board member of PERA.
As Stapleton rightfully pointed out to the Post, more transparency is exactly what the financial system needs, especially when it comes to funds worth billions of dollars:
“If responsible board members had asked these questions at an Enron or a Countrywide or a Lehman Brothers, we would have gone a lot further in addressing the problems that occurred,” Stapleton said. “Our objective in this is to make sure PERA as a plan is kept solvent for current and future employees of Colorado.”
PERA has laughably claimed that they will be solvent for future retirees based on a supposed 8 percent rate of return when for the last decade the rate of return has been a measly 3.3 percent. A fourth grader could tell you that doesn’t add up.
Like many pension funds around the country, PERA is in trouble. Like many public employee, taxpayer supported entities, like the public employee union ColoradoWINS, PERA doesn’t want anyone finding out exactly what is going on.
The Denver Post may not be fans of Stapleton going to court to get his rightful access to essential financial data, but we are glad he did. Entrenched special interests never let go of the reins without a fight.