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Feds on the California Pension Case

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission seal hangs on the facade of its building in Washington, DC.

    The biggest news of today is that the federal Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating California's state pension fund, Calpers.

    The New York Times reports that the investigation is broad -- and will look at whether Calpers, which sustained big losses in the financial crisis, properly disclosed the risks to taxpayers of such losses. Taxpayers are on the hook when Calpers investments don't produce enough to cover pension obligations. The claim that the state has failed to make clear the true size and risks of its pension obligations one has become a famiiar one in politics. What's new is a federal investigation of these claims in California.

    The potential victims, for the SEC's purposes, would be investors who bought municipal bonds in California, which must be repaid from taxpayer money. If Calpers failed to disclose the risk of losses that could impact taxpayers (and thus add to the risk that bond holders wouldn't be 't be paid back, the pension fund could be in some trouble with the feds.

    The Times story offers few details of the investigation, but it's worth keeping an eye on the subject.