For years, institutional investors have dogged the corporate world to improve its governance practices. But many of these same institutions haven’t been practicing good governance themselves.
Just ask New Jersey’s public school teachers, who recently learned that state officials diverted $3.1 billion from their pension funds using artificially high investment returns and other “Enron-like” accounting. Or consider the plight of the city workers in San Diego, where governance lapses and breaches of fiduciary duty by former retirement board members contributed to a $1.4 billion unfunded liability. More recently, details have surfaced about how New York’s former state comptroller misused state funds for personal use.
Last year, a group of fund professionals and academic experts organized by Stanford Law School — and of which I am the chairman — began a long-overdue dialogue: Who’s in charge of the funds and do they have the skill and systems in place to protect our assets from theft and malfeasance?
The result of our work was the development of a set of best-practice principles for improving fund governance. The recommendations, which focus on pension funds, university endowments and charitable funds, are rooted in one overarching goal: making funds more accountable to their beneficiaries.