Never one to shy away from a fight, State Treasurer Curtis Loftis has come out hard on the need to shake up how the state's retirement fund is operated. His two-pronged approach has focused on changing both how the system is operated and who is leading it.
He's also set up the Treasurer's Transparency Center, a web page on the State Treasurer's Office website to get information related to the matter out to the public.
In a letter to fellow Budget and Control Board members, Loftis called for Reynolds Williams, Chairman of the South Carolina Retirement System Investment Commission, to relinquish the Chair until a SLED investigation into potentially corrupt dealings by the Chair's law firm is completed.
Loftis has also been crusading to open up oversight of how the Commission does business, challenging the agency's practice of hiding it's business contracts behind confidentiality clauses that prevent even his own staff from reviewing them. Last week, the Budget and Control Board voted to appoint an independent counsel to look into the matter and present the board with recommendations.
It is unreasonable that the commission would agree to provisions that prohibit the treasurer from using his staff and attorneys to advise him in performing his official duties. But it is truly mind-blowing that a commission whose job is to oversee the handling of more than $25 billion, yes billion with a “b,” would agree to make its contracts confidential.
But Loftis isn't making this issue about South Carolina politics. In a recent New York Times story, Loftis called for a broader discussion of state pension fund investment practices:
But Mr. Loftis — who calls himself “Don Quixote with a Southern accent” — says he doesn’t want to get chummy with Wall Street. He says he wants more information about the fees that hedge funds and private equity firms are charging, and about the investments themselves. Many hedge funds, for instance, require confidentiality agreements that prevent public officials from disclosing details of investments, or even their performance.
Since getting elected two years ago, Loftis has shown the ability to shake things up and steady push for greater transparency in state government. We expect he'll be doing more of the same on this issue in the future.