NYC Considers Firing Managers Who Disparage Pensions

February 15, 2011 ( – Newly hired managers for part of New York City’s $108 billion pension fund might be fired if they criticize workers’ benefits, Bloomberg reports.

Joseph Alejandro, Treasurer at Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association of the City of New York, told Bloomberg he proposed that the fund’s board be able to dismiss future managers who disparage a public pension, “its beneficiaries or any trustees or employees.” The Fire Department Pension Fund and the Employees’ Retirement System are also considering the provision.  

According to the news report, Blackstone Group LP’s chief strategist, Byron Wien, strained relations with New York unions last year when he said benefits are “too generous.”  

“The intent isn’t to chill analysts who provide legitimate information,” Alejandro said in an interview. “We are trying to prevent money managers from taking positions that are essentially opinions based on political viewpoints.”   

The proposal is being reviewed by the New York City comptroller’s office, which oversees pensions. Michael Loughran, a spokesman for Comptroller John Liu, declined to comment to Bloomberg, and Harry Nespoli, chairman of the Municipal Labor Committee, didn’t return a message left with his office.   

Charles Sims, a First Amendment lawyer at Proskauer LLP, told Bloomberg that restricting pension-fund managers’ comments wouldn’t run afoul of freedom-of-speech rights under the U.S. Constitution. The amendment applies only to government actions.   

“Even considering a public pension board to be part of government, it still can require confidentiality or other speech restrictions in a contract,” Sims said.