We read last night's news that the massively underfunded Illinois pension fund is now the subject of an SEC inquiry with little surprise: "The Securities and Exchange Commission has launched an inquiry into public statements by Illinois officials about the state's underfunded pension fund, the state's governor's office confirmed Monday night. The Illinois inquiry is focused on public statements concerning an overhaul measure passed in 2010 meant to help shore up the retirement system, said the governor's spokeswoman, Kelly Kraft." The issue at hand is nothing short of complete accounting fraud: "An issue being examined is whether Illinois was taking future savings and treating them as current reductions in the cost of the pension fund, said Robert Kurtter, a managing director in the public finance division at Moody's Investors Service, who said his firm spoke with Illinois officials about the inquiry. One of the measures that Illinois took to save costs was to raise the retirement age for newly hired Illinois workers." To be sure if proven, which the porn freaks at the SEC will never be able to do, unless the pension fund has animate midget porn gifs on every excel spreadheet, this only means that absolutely nobody will go to jail for massively misrepresenting the truth. What we are far more interested in is whether the Illinois Teachers Retriement System, which as readers will recall took offense to us saying they are insolvent last summer, will be the next to follow in being charged with gross fiduciary breach and alleged accounting fraud. Now that development would most certainly not surprise us.
More from the WSJ:
Illinois's pension system is only about 50% funded with liabilities of about $136 billion, according to Moody's. The underfunding, one of the worst among states in the nation, is partly the result of the state frequently skipping its recommended contributions to fund.
Illinois was informed by the SEC of the inquiry in September, Ms. Kraft said. Illinois has included mention of the SEC inquiry in documents being prepared for the sale expected in the next few weeks of a approximately $3.7 billion bond, said Ms. Kraft. The debt is expected to allow the state to make a required pension-fund contribution
The inquiry is the latest example of the SEC probing a state's financial disclosures related to pensions. In August, the federal agency accused New Jersey of failing to properly disclose the true health of its two largest pension funds. New Jersey authorities settled the SEC case without admitting or denying wrongdoing.
In October, the agency said that four former San Diego officials agreed to pay penalties for allegedly misleading investors in $262 million of the city's municipal bonds. The agency said the civil settlement marked the first time it had secured financial penalties against city officials in a muni-bond fraud case.
The SEC currently lacks the authority to require issuers to disclose financial information before selling debt in the muni-market. SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter has said the agency has anti-fraud authority and authority over the professionals that deal in the marketplace.
Oh, so muni investors could easily be buying debt backed by accounting promises, but there is no way to actually check the numbers... And yet each day brings with it more morons spouting gibberish that things in the muni market are really better than expected. Well of course, when all the financials are pulled out of some financial cloaca, how can it be otherwise.