2008 Symposium: The Future of Public Employee Retirement Systems

May 1-2, 2008

About the Conference

This event examined the challenges facing public retirement systems in the US and around the world. After tracing the evolution of public sector pensions and retiree health programs, the discussion compared public with private sector pay and benefits. Next the speakers took up public policy concerns regarding accounting and management in public employee plans in the United States, focusing on ways to properly measure liabilities and how to make the plans more cost effective. The discussion also included analysis of defined contribution versus defined benefit plans for the public sector, and funding of federal retirement systems, both civilian and military. International lessons were brought to bear with a dsicussion of reforms in the German, the Japanese, and the Canadian public employee plans. This conference was a Wharton Impact Conference sponsored by the Wharton School’s Pension Research Council and Boettner Center for Pensions and Retirement Research.

The conference was co-hosted by Gary Anderson and Olivia S. Mitchell at The Wharton School.

Conference Agenda

Thursday May 1, 2008

Session I: The Past and Future of Public Retirement Systems

  • Robert L. Clark, Lee A. Craig, and Neveen Ahmed, North Carolina State University: “The Evolution of Public Sector Pension Plans in the United States” (presentation slides available here, paper available here)
  • Keith Brainard, NASRA: “Redefining Traditional Plans: Variations and Developments in Public Employee Retirement Plan Design” (presentation slides available here, paper available here)

Discussant: Leslie Papke, Michigan State (presentation slides available here)

Session II: New Developments in Public Plan Management

  • Stephen T. McElhaney, Mercer: “Estimating State and Local Government Pension and Retiree Health Care Liabilities” (presentation slides available here, paper available here)
  • Jeremy Gold, Gold Associates, and Gordon Latter, Merrill Lynch: “Marking Public Plan Liabilities to Market” (presentation slides available here, paper available here)
  • Parry Young, Consultant: Public Pensions and State & Local Budgets: “Can Contribution Rate Cyclicality Be Better Managed?” (presentation slides available here, paper available here)

Discussant: Robert North, City of NY (presentation slides available here)

Discussant: Paul Angelo, Segal Co. (presentation slides available here)

Keynote Speaker: Girard Miller, GASB (presentation slides available here)

Session III: International Perspectives on Public Retirement Systems

  • Raimond Maurer and Ralph Rogalla, Goethe University of Frankfurt, and Olivia S. Mitchell, The Wharton School: “Reforming the German Civil Servant Pension Plan” (paper available here)
  • Junichi Sakamoto, Nomura Research Institute: “Unification of Social Security Pension Schemes in Japan: Toward a Single Scheme for Both the Civil Servants and the Private Employees” (presentation slides available here, paper available here)
  • Silvana Pozzebon, Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales: “The Outlook for Canada’s Public Sector Employee Pensions” (presentation slides available here, paper available here)

Discussant: Peter Brady, ICI (presentation slides available here)

Session IV: Reform Paths for Public Plans

  • Roderick B. Crane, Michael Heller, and Paul Yakoboski, TIAA-CREF: “Defined Contribution Pension Plans in the Public Sector: A Best Practice Benchmark Analysis” (presentation slides available here, paper available here)
  • M. Barton Waring, Consultant: “Between Scylla and Charybdis: Improving the Cost Effectiveness of DB Retirement Plans” (presentation slides available here, paper available here)

Discussant: William Fornia, Aon Consulting (presentation slides available here)

Friday May 2, 2008

Session V: Costs and Benefits of Public Retirement Systems

  • Beth Almeida and Kelly Kenneally, National Institute on Retirement Security, and David Madland, Center for American Progress: “The New Intersection on the Road to Retirement: Public Pensions, Economics, Perceptions, Politics, and Interest Groups” (presentation slides available here, paper available here)
  • Brad M. Barber, UC Davis: “Pension Fund Activism: The Double-Edged Sword” (presentation slides available here, paper available here)
  • Edwin C. Hustead, Consultant: “Administrative Costs of State Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution Systems” (presentation slides available here, paper available here)

Discussant: Thomas Nyhan, Central States Pension Fund (presentation slides available here)

Session VI: Roundtable
Chair: Gary Anderson, Consultant; Robert Schultze, Virginia Retirement System; Mark Iwry, Brookings Institution/Sullivan & Cromwell LLP; David Wilcox, Federal Reserve Board; Ralph Marsh, Houston Police Officers Pension System