Monday, June 14, 2010

N.C. Lucid: State treasurer can pick stocks on own

When you've got one person with sole authority to invest state funds in companies he or she chooses, does standing for election make them less likely to abuse that power, or more?

From the Carolina Journal:
The investments by the Escheat Fund have gone sour, and as legislators continue to raid the principal of the fund for scholarships, current Treasurer Janet Cowell has warned that the fund could go broke by 2012 unless the General Assembly turns down the spigot. ...

The former treasurer, who had full authority to invest the money, said was trying to spur economic development and create jobs.

Yet he invested it largely in funds connected to people who had donated about $160,000 to his campaign from 2004 to 2008.
Shocking that giving someone such singular control over $600 million could end up like this. In trying to understand how much power North Carolina's treasurer holds, I had this back and forth with Heather Franco, a spokeswoman for the office.
Franco: As a sole fiduciary, the Treasurer maintains full responsibility for investment management. However, the asset allocation for the portfolio is set forth by the General Assembly.

Me: Does that mean the treasurer picks what particular stocks / funds / etc. to invest the state's money in, but the General Assembly tells her how much she can put toward bonds versus stocks, etc?

Franco: That is accurate. The Investment Management Division serves as the investment arm for the Department of State Treasurer. This Division employs over 20 investment professionals that provide the expertise for state government investing.

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