NY Teacher's Retirement System Takes Thomas Lee, MD's Pension Life Raft

August 10, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The executive director of Maryland's public retirement system, Thomas Lee, said Wednesday he was leaving his post for a more attractive offer as the deputy executive director of the New York State Teachers' Retirement System, one of the largest in the nation.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Lee said the offer by the New York teachers’ system was just too sweet to turn down. Lee is currently paid$134,000.

In only a brief three-year reign, during which the system’s assets have climbed from $26 billion to $34 billion, Lee has become the bellwether of Maryland’s retirement system, accredited with digging a beleaguered system out of the scandal that kept it in the headlines for years.

In November 2004, a former Maryland state pension fund manager, Nathan Chapman Jr., was sentenced to jail time and ordered to pay $5 million after being charged with 23 counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud and other crimes related to using public pension money to revive the falling stock prices of his sagging company (SeeChapman Gets Jail Time, $5M Fine in Pension Fraud Case).He pleaded not guilty to all charges brought against him (SeeChapman Pleads Not Guilty in Maryland Fraud Case).

At one point, Chapman had managed more than $100 million for the Maryland retirement system. He managed funds from 1996 until its trustees fired him in January 2002. The system, which is responsible for the pensions of more than 250,000 teachers, police officers, firefighters and other government workers, lost nearly $5 million in the transactions.

The scandal also entangled a former pension trustee, Debra Humphries, who was indicted on a single charge of perjury for allegedly lying to the grand jury about her relationship with Chapman. She was charged with failing to disclose to a grand jury that Chapman had given her $46,000 in money and gifts during a personal relationship (SeeRelationships” Entangle Maryland Pension Fund).