We just told you about the probes underway of Charlie Millard, the obscure Bush-appointed former director of the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, which provides a form of limited bankruptcy insurance to the retirement funds of 44 million Americans. Millard’s aggressive plan to sell off most of the PBGC’s bonds and plow the majority of its funds into stocks and real estate has been a pension world controversy since he started at the agency in May 2007, at the beginning of the credit crunch. Even by the highly imperfect standards of conventional Wall Street wisdom, the former Lehman Brothers executive’s investment strategy appeared almost gratuitously risky.
But it wasn’t until the Office of the Inspector General began sniffing around the agency that Millard’s short-lived stint in the federal government began to take on a more sinister light. We’ve boiled down the draft report of their audit, released yesterday by Congress, to a few key figures, adding a few of our own for perspective.
- Average investment return of global stocks over the past decade, as of February: -29%
- Average investment return of government bonds over the same period: +80%
- Value of funds under Millard’s management: $64 billion
- Value of funds Millard’s overhaul proposed to shift from bonds to stocks and real estate, in a move that effectively outsourced their management to Wall Street investment banks: $25.6 billion, or 55% of the nearly $50 billion portfolio.
- 2008 return on PBGC’s stock market investments reported before September 30, 2008: -23%.
- PBGC’s portfolio losses since September 30, a period during which the S&P 500 index has fallen 24%: Unknown.
- Number of calls Millard placed to BlackRock Capital during the months leading up to the announcement of the fund: 45
- Number of calls Millard placed to J.P. Morgan during those months: 95
- And to Goldman Sachs: 45
- Value of fees awarded to the aforementioned three investment banks by the fund, estimated over 10 years: $100 million
- Value of one “investment partnership” awarded to Goldman Sachs: $700 million
- Number of emails dated prior to the award of aformentioned partnership documenting the efforts of a senior Goldman Sachs official to assist Millard in his search for employment: 29.
In their letter to the OIG urging them to pursue a criminal investigation of Millard, the four senators provided a sad coda to Millard’s job hunt:
After the Goldman Sachs executive confirms on November 12, 2008 that several executives are interested in meeting Mr. Millard, he respons “Ur grt. Tx. Will send info soon.” Mr. Millard later e-mails several executives at another investment firm about their interest in him. He did not hear back for a period of weeks due to one of the executives’ illness, until the Goldman Sachs executive e-mailed him, “[The Executive] said he really likes you and if times were better he would have hired you already… He definitely likes you — is just not in a rush due to the terrible markets. Hope that helps.”As of late February Millard was being spotted leisurely breakfasting at the Regency Hotel with a likeminded crowd who joked to the New York Post that the inauguration had finally given Republicans some time to relax.
(Not if Congress has anything to do with it!)