New Court Filing Reveals Risky and Imprudent Investment Decisions by Trustees

New revelations have emerged in the class action lawsuit filed by AFM Local 802 members Andy Snitzer and Paul Livant in Federal District Court, Southern District of New York. A recent court filing by the attorney for the plan participants, Steven Schwartz, details how risky and imprudent investment decisions by our trustees led us to where we are today.

The filing, which you can access here, compares the AFM-EPF investment strategy to that of other large multiemployer pension plans. That comparison showed a “stark departure in terms of asset allocation from other large Taft-Hartley [multiemployer] plans.” The filing continues:

“[The AFM-EPF’s] allocations to risky asset classes were so far out of the norm that none of the witnesses, including Defendants’ [trustees’] own experts, have identified any other Taft-Hartley [multiemployer] or other large pension plan with a similarly uber-aggressive asset allocation.”

The attorney for the Plan participants goes on to describe the undisputed evidence showing that AFM-EPF investments were way out of pattern with the other multiemployer plans:

“The undisputed record reflects that our Trustees’ asset allocations were objectively out of the norm. For example, the parties’ experts cite data from the Wiltshire Trust Universe Comparison Service and from the Plan’s former Investment Consultant Meketa showing the Plan’s stark departure in terms of asset allocation from other large Taft-Hartley plans. The data shows the median large Taft-Hartley plan had no less than 45% of assets invested in domestic equities; the Trustees here reduced our Plan’s actual domestic equity allocation from 40% in 2009 to as low as 19%. The reduction in the domestic equity allocation was accompanied by an increase in the allocation to Emerging Markets Equities to as high as 15%, even though the average plan had no more than 4.5%; an increase of the total allocation to international equities of up to 30%, even though the median Taft-Hartley Plan had no more than 12%; and an increase of up to 26% in alternatives including Private Equity and Real Estate, whereas the median plan had no more than 12%.”

These facts shed light on why the Judge in the case, the Honorable Valerie Caproni, previously called the trustees’ investment approach “extraordinarily risky,” and said the following: “I mean they adopted an exceedingly risky strategy and that is part of the gestalt of the facts.”

As our own AFM-EPF plan actuary, Kevin Campe, wrote in a recent Milliman study: “The primary driver of multiemployer health continues to be asset performance.” (Kevin Campe, Milliman Multiemployer Pension Funding Study, 2018.) Unfortunately, that’s precisely where our trustees let us down.

Musicians across the country now face the reality of impending cuts to our hard-earned benefits. And yet we still have the same board of trustees that put us in this position. The AFM-EPF board needs new trustees who have the ability to supervise the investment advisors. Without real reform, we may find that the current round of cuts is just the first in an ongoing series of cuts over the next few decades.