NJ blocks public pension fund trustees seeking audit of fees paid to managers

 A large crowd of public employee union members fill the plaza and street in front of the Statehouse during a May protest in Trenton, New Jersey. They were protesting Gov. Chris Christie's pension-funding reductions. (AP file photo)

A large crowd of public employee union members fill the plaza and street in front of the Statehouse during a May protest in Trenton, New Jersey. They were protesting Gov. Chris Christie's pension-funding reductions. (AP file photo)

Trustees of one of the largest government workers’ pension funds in New Jersey are questioning the Christie administration’s rejection of their request for an audit.

A deputy New Jersey attorney general told the trustees they have no authority to call for an audit of fees paid to pension fund investment managers, according to Tom Bruno, chairman of the Public Employee Retirement System board of trustees.

“If in fact we are paying these exorbitant fees, over $600 million, that could go toward paying off the unfunded liability as opposed to shifting that tax burden onto the taxpayers,” he said Wednesday.

The deputy attorney general indicated only the State Investment Council can order an audit, Bruno said.

“We’re being told that the fees are increased when the returns are increased. So that paying high fees means that we’re making a lot of money,” he said. “We want to make sure that’s in fact the case. So having the State Investment Council basically look over its own shoulder seems a bit counterintuitive.”

Bruno said the trustees may ask the Legislature to clarify their authority.

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