Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Look at what happened to Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System. PIMCO managed $500 million of the $8.6 billion Teacher pension trust, and Oklahoma TRS couldn't value the $500 million:
Oklahoma TRS did a deeper audit of the $500 million PIMCO investment portfolio, half of which was invested in OTC derivatives, in first-quarter 2010.
“It was too numerous to work our way through,” said James Wilbanks, executive secretary. “At the end of the day, it was hard to reconcile the daily holdings.”
What worried Wilbanks and the Oklahoma TRS was that the OTC derivatives were opaque and they were not comfortable not knowing the true value of the positions.
“We had swaps and we didn’t know which side of the swap we were on,” Wilbanks said.
And how did the pension do last year? In 2009, when we had one of the greatest rallies in the history of the stock market?
They lost 16%.
But when shown a seven-page list of derivatives positions held by the Illinois Teachers Retirement System as of March 31, obtained by Medill News Service through a Freedom of Information Act request, the University of Illinois-Chicago assistant professor of finance expressed disbelief.
“If you were to have faxed me this balance sheet and asked me to guess who it belonged to, I would have guessed, Citadel, Magnetar or even a proprietary trading desk at a bank,” Rosenthal said.
How did they do? Well they lost $515 million in Q1 on their derivative bets, which have soured further.
And the TRS of Illinois now has the fourth-riskiest investment portfolio with a pension fund with 81.5% of its investments considered risky. And what are they doing? Selling swaps!
In the balance sheet provided to Medill News Service, TRS’s OTC derivatives portfolio showed that in addition to writing CDSs, the pension fund was selling swaptions and shorting international-based interest rate swaps. For each contract written or sold, TRS received a premium.
It’s clear the portfolio is primed for speculation, he added, because if Illinois TRS were hedging, or seeking to mitigate other risky investments, it would be on the buy side of swaptions and CDSs, rather than selling one set of maturities while buying another.
“TRS basically sold insurance and now it has an enormous short volatility position,” said one trader in the tightly knit OTC derivatives industry, who asked that his name not be used in this story.
Unfortunately for TRS, its OTC positions soured in late April when Greece’s debt woes worsened, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Spain’s debt to AA and the euro dropped to its lowest levels since the currency’s inception. The International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank orchestrated a $1 trillion bailout to ensure that Greece and the other PIIGS—Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain—would not default on their debts.
“As the European debt crisis worsens, TRS’ positions are going to bleed money,” the trader said.
Wall Street has found it's new pigeon.
The pension plan of our nation's teachers!
Who want their pensions!
Posted by Palmoni at 10:48 AM