Wednesday, August 18, 2010
The SEC today charged the State of New Jersey with securities fraud for misrepresenting and failing to disclose to investors in billions of dollars worth of municipal bond offerings that it was underfunding the state's two largest pension plans. New Jersey is the first state ever charged by the SEC for violations of the federal securities laws. New Jersey agreed to settle the case without admitting or denying the SEC's findings.
According to the SEC's order, New Jersey offered and sold more than $26 billion worth of municipal bonds in 79 offerings between August 2001 and April 2007. The offering documents for these securities created the false impression that the Teachers' Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF) and the Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS) were being adequately funded, masking the fact that New Jersey was unable to make contributions to TPAF and PERS without raising taxes, cutting other services or otherwise affecting its budget. As a result, investors were not provided adequate information to evaluate the state's ability to fund the pensions or assess their impact on the state's financial condition.
Among New Jersey's material misrepresentations and omissions:
- Failed to disclose and misrepresented information about legislation adopted in 2001 that increased retirement benefits for employees and retirees enrolled in TPAF and PERS.
- Failed to disclose and misrepresented information about special Benefit Enhancement Funds (BEFs) created by the 2001 legislation initially intended to fund the costs associated with the increased benefits.
- Failed to disclose and misrepresented information about the state's use of the BEFs as part of a five-year "phase-in plan" to begin making contributions to TPAF and PERS.
- Failed to disclose and misrepresented information about the state's alteration and eventual abandonment of the five-year phase-in plan.