Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's His Wall Street Way: Jon Corzine Gambles New Jersey Pension Fund to Bankroll Risky Investments and Bloated Government

Three Months Before Lehman Brothers Failed, Corzine's Wall Street Appointees Oversaw $180 Million Stock Purchase

PARSIPPANY, NJ - Jon Corzine ran for governor telling New Jersey he had the business credentials to get our state's economy moving in the right direction. Four years later, New Jersey has yet to see results from Governor Corzine. Instead, we've seen the highest unemployment in 32 years, the highest property taxes in the country, multi-billion dollar shortfalls and nearly $20 billion in losses for the New Jersey pension fund. Under Governor Corzine's watch, New Jersey's bloated government has expanded, increasing the burden on our state's taxpayers to unprecedented levels.

What we've seen is a Wall Street approach from our New Jersey governor that has made our state the most economically depressed in the region. Just look at how Governor Corzine manages the pension fund as though it is a bankroll for his budget deficits and Wall Street day trading, similar to the billions he played with at Goldman Sachs. Since Governor Corzine took office, he has consistently deferred billions in payments to New Jersey's pension fund. This cavalier attitude toward the billions needed to cover retirement benefits reflects his short-sighted approach to New Jersey's budget and his careless attitude to his obligations to New Jersey's taxpayers.

It's a Wall Street way that doesn't stop with Jon Corzine. Governor Corzine has shown where his loyalties lie, appointing former Wall Street colleagues to the State Investment Council, which oversees investment strategies and decisions for New Jersey's pension fund. Three of the Governor's six appointees have strong ties to Lehman Brothers and signed off on a questionable deal to buy $180 million in stock a little more than three months before Lehman imploded:

"The move attracted widespread attention since it was unusual for a U.S. state pension fund to use the same strategy as sovereign wealth funds, hedge funds and private equity groups" ("NJ sues Lehman execs for fraud to recoup state funds," Reuters, 03/17/09).

Despite this glaring failure, which resulted in an Attorney General's suit to recoup the lost funds, Governor Corzine chose to reappoint all three. The Lehman appointees are not the only ones on the investment board who have Wall Street interests before New Jersey interests: "Senior officers from JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers, whose resumes include stints at Bear Stearns, Smith Barney and Morgan Stanley, are among the four new appointments Corzine announced to the State Investment Council" (Dustan McNichol, "4 money men bring fresh blood to expanded pension-fund panel," Star Ledger, 08/23/07).

Chris Christie stated: "Governor Corzine's handling of New Jersey's pension fund is shameful. Every year, Governor Corzine has signed budgets into law deferring billions in payments to the pension fund. Our state's taxpayers are left holding the bill thanks to Governor Corzine's shortsighted mismanagement of pension payments and high-risk investments by his Wall Street appointed investment board.

"New Jerseyans cannot afford to have Governor Corzine gambling with their money as though it is a faceless portfolio at Goldman Sachs. Governor Corzine needs to remember he resides on State Street, not Wall Street, and he needs to remember his loyalties should be to the people of New Jersey, not to traders on Wall Street."

Governor Jon Corzine's State Investment Council 2007 Appointments:

Erika Irish Brown, Senior Vice President at Lehman Brothers (State of New Jersey Department of the Treasury Division of Investment, Annual Report, 2007)

W. Montgomery Cerf, Managing Director at Lehman Brothers (State of New Jersey Department of the Treasury Division of Investment, Annual Report, 2007)

Jose R. Claxton, Managing Director at Lehman Brothers through Dec., 2006 (Dustan McNichol, "4 money men bring fresh blood to expanded pension-fund panel," Star Ledger, 08/23/07)

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