Tuesday, October 16

Teacher Pensions Teaching Wall Street a Lesson

Before I started law school, I was an aide at an elementary school. It was a humbling experience. The math and reading was ok, but everything I thought I knew about personal relationships was turned on its ear. My point is, anyone who knows a teacher (hello, Mrs. Galvan!) knows that they teach social responsibility and ethics as much as reading and math (and law).

We were not surprised, then, to find out that the California and New York teacher retirement funds filed amici briefs in Stoneridge Investment Partners v. Scientific-Atlanta Inc., a derivative securities fraud case heard last week by the Supreme Court.

From Education Week:

The California and New York state teacher-retirement funds, as well as some other large state pension funds, filed or joined friend-of-the-court briefs on the side of shareholders. The shareholders are seeking to hold two big companies that were the business partners of Charter Communications Inc. liable for allegedly helping the St. Louis-based cable-TV company in a fraudulent scheme that helped inflate its cash flow in 2000.

The teacher-retirement funds note that they have become some of the most active institutional investors in trying to improve the integrity of publicly traded companies in the wake of Enron and other recent high-profile corporate-fraud cases.

If anyone is going to teach corporate defrauders a lesson, we'd pick the teacher's unions. Not because of the love we have for our teachers, but because they're generally the best-funded, best-invested funds in the public sector.

Click the jump for CE's color commentary.

Another story: in Mississippi, where I spent first grade, every teacher in the school had a paddle. My teacher's paddle was named Charlie Brown. The principle's was named Buster and had holes cut in it for speed and angry eyes painted on the end. The pensions are swinging with Bowser.

The lesson here is more dunce-cap-in-the-corner than get-up-try-again, and it's one the CEOs had better learn. Corporate waste is easy when the shareholders are disjointed and hard to unify. But when three pension funds with billions of dollars invested can hold a 20-minute conference call and decide to dump your inefficient company stock, it becomes a much bigger deal. So, corporations, heads up. The teachers are pissed. And the water reclamation employees and the trash collectors. Regular people rely on you being responsible so they can retire.

In the immortal words of Tyler Durden:

"Look, the people you are after are the people you depend on. We cook your meals, we connect your calls, we guard you while you sleep. Do NOT f*** with us."

Though we hope our honored educators wouldn't use such foul language.