Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Media strikes out in RI Hedge Fund Debate

Last Week  one of the largest alternative asset management  conferences in the United States  took place right here in Newport Rhode island. I am a two time veteran of this conference having presented my tiny Rhode Island based Hedge Fund in 2007 and 2008. I did not attend this years conference  and I fully expected to read all about it in the local media which for a while now has been  virtually obsessed with Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s  decision to use Hedge Funds in her asset allocation mix. This mix is  for plan assets  funding the  State of Rhode Island Pension Plans. This conference is usually a sell out and I assume it was again this year. It has been well attended by Rhode Island officials as well. That’s why today I sit here shocked at the lack of coverage by Rhode Island media. What does this mean? Does Ted Nesi really not care or is he just a groupie for RI Future? Does Go Local really have an article everyday blasting Raimondo’s on her pension policy and then miss the largest conference relevant to the subject matter?  It was held directly under their nose in Newport, Rhode Island? How pathetic is that? I know the Providence Journal has chimed in on the subject where were they?
      So given the media blitz by several RI media outlets covering a Forbes blogger and the subsequent Afscme hiring of this reporter to investigate Raimondo, I figured all eyes would be on this annual conference. The Public Summit It would have been quite interesting. And it would have been interesting ,as well, to get the media spin ,because for anyone really in the business of managing money, the anti Raimondo campaign comes off as a political hack job. The media, if it had chosen to, could have gotten a real education about pension funds and answered a lot of the questions that have been thrown against the wall. The Public Summit Funds East was a virtual “smorgasbord” of ideas and real world uses of alternative assets used in managing pension funds. Three days of meetings included presentations by managers on their use of Private equity and hedge funds when investing for their pension plans. Among the presenters  and panelists were the   NEW YORK CITY UNIFORMED FIREFIGHTERS ASSOCIATION, MINNESOTA STATE BOARD OF INVESTMENT,  CITY OF HARTFORD MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT FUND,  LOUISIANA STATE EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM, NEW HAMPSHIRE RETIREMENT. Early on the first day an appearance was scheduled for a Board member from Rhode Island  pension commission discussing the current  “State of the United States Pension System “. Later on  in the treasurers’ roundtable, the state Treasurers for South Carolina, Utah, Oklahoma and Iowa were to discuss multiple topics and field questions from the audience. But alas none of the so called concerned activists or reporters were there.

        Virtually every topic was reviewed over the three day period by experts and users across the nation. You would think Go Local or the Providence Journal or Nesi Notes would have been starving for this event to round out their knowledge and to look into the accusations they themselves have printed multiple times. At least that is what I expected. I had hoped that then , reporters once having been educated ,would report more fairly what is going on in the pension world and what investments are truly acceptable as part of an overall strategy. Sadly , I have concluded that what probably happened here in Rhode Island Media  was someone with an agenda notified friends in the press about the labor sponsored  campaign against hedge funds and Gina Raimondo . Spoon-fed articles with very shaky facts were proffered. And while it was clear to me that some of the reporters and promoters really knew very little about this business, the public was a gullible mass just like the Dems hoped. I welcome the opportunity to educate the public. I hoped this was a chance for someone other than me to set the public and the media straight.  But no, just when the local media could have contributed mightily to the public debate on defined pension plans and the management of pension funds by simply attending  and reporting on the 3 day conference in Newport, they failed. Instead there was no coverage at all, no educating the public, no clarifying the difficult issues. This was a wasted opportunity; it never occurred to me that our media would miss this chance to inform the public. What a loss.

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