There are times when I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged the state of Illinois with securities fraud:
Washington, D.C., March 11, 2013 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged the State of Illinois with securities fraud for misleading municipal bond investors about the state’s approach to funding its pension obligations.
An SEC investigation revealed that Illinois failed to inform investors about the impact of problems with its pension funding schedule as the state offered and sold more than $2.2 billion worth of municipal bonds from 2005 to early 2009. Illinois failed to disclose that its statutory plan significantly underfunded the state’s pension obligations and increased the risk to its overall financial condition. The state also misled investors about the effect of changes to its statutory plan.
Illinois, which implemented a number of remedial actions and issued corrective disclosures beginning in 2009, agreed to settle the SEC’s charges.
“Municipal investors are no less entitled to truthful risk disclosures than other investors,” said George S. Canellos, Acting Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Time after time, Illinois failed to inform its bond investors about the risk to its financial condition posed by the structural underfunding of its pension system.”
Elaine Greenberg, Chief of the SEC’s Municipal Securities and Public Pensions Unit, added, “Regardless of the funding methodology they choose, municipal issuers must provide accurate and complete pension disclosures including the effects of material changes to their pension plans. Public pension disclosure by municipal issuers continues to be a top priority of the unit.”
According to the SEC’s order instituting settled administrative proceedings against Illinois, the state established a 50-year pension contribution schedule in the Illinois Pension Funding Act that was enacted in 1994. The schedule proved insufficient to cover both the cost of benefits accrued in a current year and a payment to amortize the plans’ unfunded actuarial liability. The statutory plan structurally underfunded the state’s pension obligations and backloaded the majority of pension contributions far into the future. This structure imposed significant stress on the pension systems and the state’s ability to meet its competing obligations – a condition that worsened over time.
I don’t much care whether the officials involved were elected, appointed, or hired. The people of the state of Illinois have a right to expect their civil servants to comply with the law. That’s the minimum standard of performance not the maximum standard. By their malfeasance the state has not only become subject to SEC fines but to who knows how much in legal costs, vulnerability to civil suits, and judgments.
We’ve reached the point where everybody in the entire hierarchy that’s involved here should be deemed unfit and ineligible for office.