You may have seen the latest AFM-EPF newsletter, stating, "Our trustees take seriously the commitment to more frequent, comprehensive communication." Last month, Musicians for Pension Security requested a series of documents. We also asked specific questions concerning investments, expenses, lobbying costs and other subjects of vital importance. Not one of these requests for information was honored. In response, Executive Director Maureen Kilkelly simply referred MPS to the disclosure document inventory list on the AFM-EPF website. This list includes several years of actuarial and investment management information, and the copying cost to receive these documents. This information, as required by federal law, must be posted to their website. For our remaining requests, Ms. Kilkelly’s response speaks for itself, “We are not responding to the remaining requests.* ”
So what were the requests that the trustees refused to respond to?
• We asked for the minutes of trustee meetings, as well as minutes of the investment and audit committees. It seems to us that trustees who wish to be transparent would make their minutes available, but they chose not to allow us access to those documents.
• We also asked for specific information about the losses that occurred in 2007-09 during the financial crisis. How much of these losses were in high-yield bonds, as the trustees have claimed? How much were within the category of alternative investments? How much were corporate stocks? The trustees will not disclose that information.
• With respect to the financial crisis, we asked whether the trustees considered taking legal action against those responsible for catastrophic investment losses. Tens of billions of dollars have been recovered by peer pension plans against wrongdoers in connection with financial crisis losses. Why didn't the AFM seek compensation? Again, the trustees will not say.
• MPS has reason to believe that several AFM-EPF trustees actively supported the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act, MPRA, a law that could give trustees the ability to cut our pension benefits, in 2013 and 2014 (NCCMP). We asked trustees whether any of our plan money was used to help lobby for this law. In our view, plan money should be used for the exclusive benefit of plan participants, and any money spent on our behalf for lobbying purposes should be disclosed. The trustees, however, choose to remain silent on the subject.
• Regarding spending, we asked about travel expenses, meeting expenses, and the cost of education for the trustees. After the AFM-EPF spent $250 million dollars of plan money over the last decade on fees and expenses, coupled with extremely poor performance, this is an area of great concern. Transparency of spending during a financial crisis of this magnitude is critical. Our trustees would not share any information on this subject.
• Trustees will not answer the simple question of whether the Department of Labor performed an expense audit on the plan in the past five years.
So while communications from our trustees may have become more frequent and comprehensive as of late, we anticipate that they will be in one of two categories : either divulging only what is required by federal law, or advancing their own point of view. It seems that trustees will not answer inconvenient or uncomfortable questions that would enable plan participants to seek transparency and accountability.
Musicians for Pension Security, Inc.
* Ms. Kilkelly included a disclaimer on her email that prevents us from sharing it publicly