Judge: RI cities, towns must join pension lawsuit

August 14th, 2014 at 7:08 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Rhode Island judge handling organized labor’s sprawling challenge to the state’s landmark 2011 pension law has ordered that an unknown number of municipalities be added as defendants in the case.

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Providence pension investments beat state’s again

July 25th, 2014 at 5:02 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence pension fund’s investment performance beat the state’s once again in the fiscal year that just ended, and it wasn’t particularly close.

The City of Providence Employee Retirement System’s roughly $272-million portfolio earned 17.5% during the 12-month fiscal year that ended June 30. The Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island’s roughly $8.2-billion portfolio earned 15.1% over the same period.

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Providence pension lawsuit looming, trial this fall

July 24th, 2014 at 10:09 am by under Nesi's Notes

By Tim White

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A pending lawsuit by a group of retirees over changes to Providence’s pension system could cost the city more than $11 million over 10 years if the retirees prevail, according to data reviewed by the Target 12 Investigators.

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Providence admits actuary questioned its pension math

July 1st, 2014 at 12:54 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Lawyers for Providence Mayor Angel Taveras have rewritten bond documents to acknowledge that its actuary disagrees with the way the city reported how much money is in its cash-strapped pension fund.

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Cianci defends 1991 decision that ballooned pension debt

June 26th, 2014 at 9:45 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Tim White

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence mayoral candidate Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr. on Thursday defended a decision he made during his second administration that resulted in generous pension benefits for hundreds of municipal retirees.

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• Related: How ‘comedy of errors’ torpedoed Providence pension fund (Nov. 28, 2011)

Buddy Cianci still eligible for city pension in Providence

June 24th, 2014 at 11:30 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former Providence Mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr. remains eligible to get a pension from the city regardless of whether he decides to make a comeback bid for his old job.

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Raimondo stands by hedge-fund adviser canned by Mass.

June 24th, 2014 at 12:10 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – General Treasurer Gina Raimondo is keeping for now the California financial adviser that helps her office pick hedge funds for the state’s investment portfolio, despite a recent decision by the Massachusetts pension board to cut ties with the same company.

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Watch Newsmakers: Yelnosky on pensions; Joe Paolino

May 11th, 2014 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes

Moody’s: Failure of RI pension settlement a ‘credit negative’

April 21st, 2014 at 12:31 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A top Wall Street ratings agency is ringing an alarm bell over the recent rejection of a proposed pension settlement that Gov. Lincoln Chafee and Treasurer Gina Raimondo had hammered out with the state’s labor unions.

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Watch Newsmakers: NEARI’s Robert Walsh

April 21st, 2014 at 10:30 am by under Nesi's Notes

Weightlifting ex-firefighter plans to sue for $7M over pension

April 18th, 2014 at 6:22 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Tim White

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Retired Providence firefighter John Sauro – who was collecting a tax-free disability pension when he was seen in Target 12 undercover video lifting weights – has filed a notice with city officials that he intends to sue the city for $7 million for taking away his pension.

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Judge Taft-Carter: RI pension lawsuit can move forward

April 16th, 2014 at 12:26 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s public-sector unions and retirees have won another court victory in the battle over the 2011 pension law.

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RI pension mediation ends; trial set for Sept

April 11th, 2014 at 2:44 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s landmark pension law is heading to trial.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo said Friday the state and its major labor unions have ended court-ordered mediation talks after eligible police officers voted to reject a proposed pension settlement. The two sides are now set to head to trial Sept. 15.

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Providence’s pension return tops state’s since ’11

March 27th, 2014 at 5:50 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The pension plan in Rhode Island’s capital city has outperformed the state’s fund since Democratic rivals Mayor Angel Taveras and Treasurer Gina Raimondo took office, the city’s longtime financial consultants said Thursday.

The analysis, conducted by Boston-based Wainwright Investment Counsel, shows Providence’s $284 million in investments earned a 10.9% return between 2011 and 2013, while the state pension fund earned a 9.2% return during the same time period.

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Union leader: Opposing pension settlement deal is irrational

March 19th, 2014 at 11:01 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Opposition to the proposed Rhode Island pension settlement from rank-and-file union members and retirees is “neither rational nor legally sound,” according to one of their leaders who is backing the deal.

Roger Boudreau, president of the Rhode Island American Federation of Teachers’ retirees chapter and a member of the state Retirement Board, made the comments in a Monday email to members of the Rhode Island Public Employees Retiree Coalition (RIPERC), the lead plaintiffs in the case.

“If you have already cast your ballot into the waste basket, you have made a rational and informed decision to agree to the Settlement,” Boudreau wrote in the message, which was obtained by


Pension settlement ballots sent; due back by April 3

March 17th, 2014 at 2:54 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

This just in from the union plaintiffs coalition:

Mail ballots have been sent to members and retirees who are eligible to participate in the first round of voting.

Voting members shall be advised that ballots must be received no later than Thursday April 3, 2014. A self-addressed, postage-paid envelope has been provided with the ballot. Ballot tabulation will be independently administered by ProMail.

Per the terms outlined in the settlement agreement, the mail balloting process for this round of voting must be completed within 60 days of February 14, 2014.

ProMail Etc. is a Providence-based nonprofit social venture affiliated with The Providence Center, a behavioral health organization, that offers job opportunities to individuals “with barriers to employment,” according to ProMail’s website.


Watch Newsmakers: US Attorney Neronha; Sen. Ryan Pearson

March 2nd, 2014 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes

Dems angling to succeed Raimondo all back pension deal

February 26th, 2014 at 12:53 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

The men vying to succeed Gina Raimondo as Rhode Island’s general treasurer are all supporting the proposed settlement she recently announced that would end unions’ legal challenge to the 2011 pension law.

The three Democrats running for treasurer are former Treasurer Frank Caprio, former Internal Auditor Ernie Almonte, and political newcomer Seth Magaziner. No Republican has entered the race so far.

Almonte spoke out Wednesday in a Providence Journal op-ed, describing the settlement as possibly “the best short-term option” while also criticizing how long lawmakers allowed the pension problem to fester.

“This is a worthwhile settlement because it achieves significant savings without costly litigation and uncertainty,” Almonte, who raised red flags about the pension problem as internal auditor, wrote. “But it also highlights the true cost of continuing to delay making difficult decisions that will shape our state’s future.”


Taveras, Raimondo exchange harsh words over pensions

February 25th, 2014 at 3:49 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The campaigns of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo exchanged fire Tuesday about the two Democrats’ records on pensions, signaling Rhode Island’s ongoing battle over retirement benefits will be a battleground in this year’s primary for governor.

“Not only has the mayor failed to solve Providence’s pension problem, for most of his term he was too busy to bother with it,” Raimondo campaign manager Eric Hyers told “He skipped 80% of the meetings of the board that oversees the city’s pension fund in the first half of his term.”

“We’re not surprised that she’s attacking him now since her constantly evolving positions and statements prove that she will say or do anything to get elected,” Taveras campaign manager Danny Kedem told

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Despite settlement, pension lawsuit trial still set for Sept. 15

February 24th, 2014 at 3:42 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Preparations for a September trial in the union lawsuit challenging Rhode Island’s landmark 2011 pension overhaul are still happening despite the high-profile announcement of a proposed settlement to end the suit.

Court spokesman Craig Berke confirmed Monday that the Sept. 15 start date for the pension lawsuit trial remains in place. R.I. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter set the date on Feb. 12, just hours after the first press conference to announce the pension settlement was abruptly postponed.

Berke told that if the proposed settlement hasn’t been approved by Sept. 15 – which would require affirmative votes by workers, retirees and state lawmakers – the trial will begin as scheduled.

Judge Taft-Carter ordered lawyers on both sides of the pension suit to begin coming up with an agreed-upon schedule for the pre-trial discovery phase when evidence will be collected. The judge also ordered that discovery should be completed by 30 days before Sept. 15.

The trial, like the settlement, would cover not only unions’ challenge to the 2011 pension overhaul but also their earlier suit opposing pension cuts enacted by the General Assembly in 2009 and 2010. The two sides presumably could still complete a settlement and end the litigation after the trial begins, however.

Moody’s backs RI pension settlement as ‘credit positive’

February 24th, 2014 at 12:51 pm by under Nesi's Notes

Moodys RI pension settlement cropBy Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A top Wall Street ratings agency is throwing its support behind the proposed pension settlement deal reached earlier this month by Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Treasurer Gina Raimondo and the state’s labor unions.

The analysts from Moody’s Investors Service acknowledged, however, that some of Rhode Island’s more cash-strapped local governments could struggle to fund the higher costs called for under the pension settlement, singling out Woonsocket and Providence.

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• Related: 10 ways to look at the proposed RI pension settlement (Feb. 20)

(chart: Moody’s Investors Service)

Watch Newsmakers: Roundtable on primaries, pension deal

February 23rd, 2014 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes

Watch: Answering your questions on the pension settlement

February 21st, 2014 at 5:53 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

RI unions get set to meet, vote on pension settlement deal

February 20th, 2014 at 4:40 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

J. Michael Downey, president of Council 94, Rhode Island’s largest public-employees union, sent an email to his members Thursday laying out what happens next in the pension settlement process.

Downey reports that every eligible worker or retiree “will soon receive a mail ballot” allowing them to vote on whether to proceed with the settlement, though he didn’t provide any specific dates or deadlines. There are six blocs of voters, including state workers and teachers, and if more than 50% of members of any of the six blocs vote against the settlement, it’s off.

“Consistent with class action litigation, members who accept the proposed settlement are not required to take any action, as unreturned ballots shall be considered as agreeing with the settlement,” Downey also notes – meaning anyone who doesn’t return a ballot will be counted as a “yes” vote on the settlement.


10 ways to look at the proposed RI pension settlement

February 20th, 2014 at 12:32 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

The pension settlement is complicated. And so, naturally, are opinions about it.

Political controversies are often cast in black-and-white terms – you’re either for something or against it. But on many issues there’s a much wider range of possible opinions. It’s more of a gradation than a clear line.

The pension settlement is a great example of that. I’ve seen more than a half-dozen different opinions about it that vary based on the premises about pensions people start with as well as whether they’re emphasizing the fiscal or legal impacts of the deal. I’ve listed each one below – to be clear, though, these opinions aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, and this list isn’t exhaustive.

Add more opinions in the comments section below!

The original 2011 pension law wasn’t necessary. Much of the discussion about the pension law starts from an agreed-upon premise that Rhode Island had a pension funding problem in 2011 and needed to address it. But even that is contested, usually from the left. Tom Sgouros, the local activist and writer, has argued that the reason there appears to be a pension funding problem is because of the way policymakers and actuaries have decided to measure and fund those liabilities. If the framework is changed – or if the assumptions are altered, as Cranston’s Paul Valletta has colorfully noted – what appears to be a major problem on paper could, if not disappear, at least appear far more manageable. And if that’s your view, there was no need to make the sweeping changes passed in 2011 in the first place.


Why the pension settlement may save even more than $3.9B

February 19th, 2014 at 6:12 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Much of the reporting about last week’s pension settlement has focused on the number $3.9 billion, which is the amount of savings the deal would lock in compared with the status quo before the 2011 overhaul.

But that may actually understate the amount of savings state officials would lock in by getting unions and retirees to approve the settlement. The reason is because under the terms of the deal, the unions and retirees wouldn’t just drop their lawsuits challenging the 2011 law – they’d also drop an earlier lawsuit that aims to overturn pension changes made by the General Assembly in 2009 and 2010.

The savings from the 2009 and 2010 changes weren’t included in the estimates put out during last week’s settlement announcement, which used as its baseline the unfunded pension liability at the time of the 2011 overhaul (currently estimated at $8.9 billion, including $8.3 billion for state employees and teachers). There’s no comparable estimate for the 2009 and 2010 changes available online at this time.


Chart: Comparing Raimondo, Fung and Taveras on pensions

February 18th, 2014 at 12:39 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Three of Rhode Island’s major candidates for governor this year – Treasurer Gina Raimondo, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras – have all struck deals with union members and retirees over the last two years to reduce the shortfalls in the pension funds for which they’re responsible.

So how much did they save?

In dollar terms, Raimondo obviously achieved the highest savings: a $3.9 billion cut in the state’s unfunded liability under the terms of last week’s proposed settlement, compared with a $186.4 million reduction from Taveras’s settlement and a $37.4 million reduction from Fung’s settlement. But that’s not really a fair comparison, since the two mayors were dealing with significantly smaller total liabilities.


Watch RI PBS’s Lively Experiment on polls, pensions

February 18th, 2014 at 10:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Rhode Island PBS invited me to join the panel for last week’s edition of “A Lively Experiment,” along with Scott MacKay, Wendy Schiller and Dave Layman. The four of us carved up the new WPRI/Journal poll about the Democratic gubernatorial primary and discussed the pension settlement. Here’s the full show:

Chart: RI’s pension shortfall, with and without the settlement

February 17th, 2014 at 9:41 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Rhode Island’s unfunded pension liability has taken a wild ride over the last few years. Take a look:

RI pension liability - 2009 to settlementIt started when Treasurer Gina Raimondo convinced the State Retirement Board to change the underlying assumptions used to estimate the liability – most notably by reducing the long-term forecast of its investment earnings from 8.25% a year to 7.5% a year, as well as by changing the mortality tables for retirees.


RI pension settlement would add $232M to shortfall

February 14th, 2014 at 4:27 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi and Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – State and union leaders on Friday unveiled a proposed settlement that would end a legal challenge to Rhode Island’s landmark pension changes by adding $232 million to the state’s unfunded shortfall and tweaking how cost-of-living increases, retirement ages and contribution rates work for state retirees and employees.

The settlement asks the General Assembly to approve a 5% increase in Rhode Island’s unfunded pension liability for state employees, teachers and some municipal workers – from $4.8 billion to $5.05 billion – in order to get the unions to drop their lawsuits over the 2011 pension law, as well as previous pension changes passed in 2009 and 2010.

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More coverage of the pension debate on Nesi’s Notes: