Panel recommends N.C. put board in charge of pension funds

A commission created by North Carolina Treasurer Janet Cowell has recommended that legislators change how the state handles the $86 pension system for teachers and workers.

North Carolina is one of four states where the state treasurer has the sole authority to invest pension funds, and the union representing tens of thousands of state employees has for a long time been calling for an investment board to manage the funds.

The panel, the North Carolina Investment Fiduciary Governance Commission, said in a draft report to Cowell Thursday, "As a result of the Commission's discussions, and after thoroughly vetting applicable governance related issue, the Commission recommends that a shift be made to the governance of the (North Carolina Retirement System) NCRS investment program from the current sole trustee model to a board of trustees model with the Treasurer serving as statutory Chair of the board."

The report also provides detail and rationale behind the primary model recommendation and offers guidance on issues such as board size, board composition, how trustees on the board are appointed, frequency of meetings and scope of authority.

The panel also recommended increasing the level of fiduciary independence and codifying existing safeguards into law.

Member of the panel, which was established in January, include Michael Kennedy, senior client partner of Korn/Ferry International and Chair of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board; Professor Rhoda Billings, former Associate Justice and Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court; Linda Combs, former U.S. Controller;  State Reps. Nelson Dollar and Rick Glazier, both members of the Legislative Retirement System; Greg Gaskins, Chief Financial Officer, City of Charlotte; State Sens. Ralph Hise and Floyd McKissick, both members of the Legislative Retirement System; Charles Perusse, COO of the University of North Carolina; Mark Jewell, Vice President of the North Carolina Association of Educators; and Neal Triplett, President and CEO of DUMAC, Duke University's endowment and pension fund.

Cowell is now expected to review the commission's recommendation and propose changes to lawmakers, who start their annual session next month.

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