Local News

Moore Says Pension Fund Returns Trump Criticism

Posted March 2, 2007 7:36 p.m. EST

— State Treasurer Richard Moore on Friday offered the performance of the state pension fund as his defense against critics who say he has mixed political fund-raising with his handling of the $74 billion account.

Moore is a likely contender for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and he argued that he's been unfairly singled out. He said he wants to be judged on the strength of the retirement account and not who has contributed to his political war chest.

Moore was making his case at the same time that the State Employees Association of North Carolina weighed in on the issue and a week after Forbes magazine ran a story critical of Moore for taking contributions from fund advisers at the same time that he has questioned business ethics on Wall Street.

“I must have made some people mad,” Moore told reporters, whom he had called to his office for a presentation on how the fund has done.

Using a detailed PowerPoint presentation, Moore touted his watch over billions in investments through bull and bear markets. He noted a conservative strategy, solid growth and a retirement account that's fully funded.

By law, Moore alone controls the pension fund. The Associated Press reported that the funds fell just short of their 7.25 percent benchmark return for the fiscal year ending last June 30. The median return for public funds during the same period was 9.44 percent, according to advisory firm Wilshire Associates.

“I probably have one of the most measurable political jobs in America,” the treasurer said to counter suggestions that influence could lead to lower returns.

“Everyone we have hired has given great value to the mission of this pension fund,” he said.

SEANC Executive Director, Dana S. Cope, said in a letter dated Thursday that the members were concerned over reports that Moore had refused to turn over some records to Forbes magazine until the magazine threatened a lawsuit.

"This surprised the association and seemed inconsistent with your stated belief in disclosure and transparency regarding investment practices," Cope wrote.

Speaking to WRAL Friday, Cope said, “We want to make sure there's no monkey business going on with that fund. We want to make sure it's not political.”

SEANC said it wants all documents related to the dispute with Forbes and an accounting of how Moore paid the law firm that he hired for the matter. The organization also asked for copies of all reports Moore has been required to file with the Legislature, a list of any required reports that weren't filed and performance reports on all pension managers' performances and how much they were paid.

Moore’s session began with his trying to smooth the waters with reporters who were perplexed when his staff had arranged the meeting but initially wanted to bar cameras or sound recorders.

That was widely viewed among State Capitol reporters as an odd idea from the office of a major state politician.

“If there was any misunderstanding about what was welcome and what wasn't welcome, I apologize,” Moore said.