CORPaTH’s pension superstars
return to share ideas and trends
in a changing landscape
The world’s top pension defenders reunited for the 2021 CORPaTH Crystal Globe Awards Banquet and Summit following a two-year hiatus from in-person contact. The occasion was an opportunity to renew friendships, exchange ideas and learn about the latest developments and trends in the world of Defined-Benefit Pensions for working people.
The Crystal Globe Awards banquet on Dec. 14 began with remarks by Master of Ceremonies Jacques Loveall, president of UFCW 8-Golden State and chair of the UFCW Trust. Loveall contrasted the current state of DB pensions with the dark days of the 2008 financial crisis, when heretofore healthy plans were being decimated and derided as “dinosaurs.”
“I’m here to tell you we are not dinosaurs and we are making a comeback that is extraordinary,” he said.
“When we first had the crash of ’08, our first mission of CORPaTH was to get money into troubled pension plans,” Loveall continued. “We’ve had a nice 13-year overnight success. It’s now happening. That would have never happened without the people in this room.”
Loveall also cited CORPaTH’s role in the growing acceptance and expansion of Variable Defined-Benefit plans, which address concerns of employers and elected officials, as well as the next generation of workers who desire portability and customization for their individual needs. He concluded by announcing CORPaTH will unveil a “perfectly defined new-generation pension plan” to be unveiled in 2022.
The night’s highlights featured presentations of CORPaTH’s Crystal Globe Awards to three leading lights of the pension world: Richard Charlton, founder and chairman emeritus of NEPC, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award (introduced by Michael Manning, NEPC managing partner); Sharon Hendricks, vice chair of California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) Board of Directors (introduced by Dana Dillon, former CalSTRS board chair); and David Blumenstein, president and CEO of The Segal Group (introduced by Ellen Anreder, President of Bleiweiss Communicaitons Inc.).
In his acceptance remarks, Richard Charlton described his early career struggles in establishing a firm offering unbiased and independent investment advice to Union-affiliated Taft-Hartley funds. “People with your back,” he concluded. “That’s what CORPaTH is, that’s what organized labor is.”
In her remarks, Sharon Hendricks recounted her career as a “lifelong learner,” both as an educator and as a pension trustee. She thanked CORPaTH for “continuing the fight for all workers.”
Upon receiving his Crystal Globe Award, David Blumenstein shared a moving account of his grandfather’s hard life as a Holocaust survivor and refugee who had enough faith in American democracy to lobby then-Sen. John F. Kennedy for the rights of aging workers.
“For a man who had lost so much, this simple act is an act of faith in our democratic institutions and the decency of our political process and our politicians, faith that words written on paper can somehow change the course of events,” he said.
Noting the same sense of optimistic commitment drives the actions of CORPaTH and its allied organizations, he added: “The attendance of each and every one of us at this conference and participation in continuing to strengthen the pension system for the benefits of millions of people is crucial.”
The evening also featured a panel on “Workers’ Capital” with Sarah Bernstein of Meketa Investment Group and Nikita Singhal of Lazard Management. CORPaTH Executive Director Ron Auer moderated the discussion, which focused on the principles and imperatives of investing according to environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards.
The next day’s CORPaTH Summit opened with Hank Kim of the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS) moderating a discussion on the state of DB plans from legislative and actuarial perspectives. The panelists included Dan Doonan of the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), Jason Russell of The Segal Group and Michael Scott of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans (NCCMP). Much of the conversation concerned the potential effects of the American Rescue Plan Act, especially the ARPA’s Special Financial Assistance (SFA) component, on the country’s pension plans.
Ron Auer then returned to the moderator’s chair to preside over a panel of notable public pension trustees, including Crystal Globe recipient Sharon Hendricks of CalSTRS, Jim Maloney, a former Chicago police officer and current board member of the Illinois Public Pension Fund Association, and Guy Pinkman, a trustee of the Lincoln (Neb.) Police and Fire Pension Plan Investment Board as well as a two-time presidential appointee to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).
For the Summit’s panel on investment strategies, The Segal Group’s David Blumenstein returned to the stage after receiving the Crystal Globe Award the night before. Blumenstein moderated the discussion with a trio of pension celebrities: Jeff Cherry, founder and executive director of Conscious Venture Partners, LLC; Carl Mastroianni, senior product specialist for Insight Investment, and Greg Tarpinian, a previous Crystal Globe Award recipient and senior managing director of North American business development for EnTrust Global.
The 2021 Summit ended with a star-studded Consultants Panel featuring Steve Charlton, director of consulting services at NEPC; Patrick Kuhner, senior consultant at Alan Biller & Associates; Steve McCourt, managing principal at Meketa Investment Group; Tim McCusker, chief investment officer at NEPC; Annie Taylor, managing director and senior consultant at Verus; and Nick Trella, senior vice president at Segal Marco Advisors’ Chicago office. CORPaTH Executive Director Ron Auer handled the moderation duties.
Executive Director Auer concluded the 2021 Crystal Globe Awards and Summit by inviting the attendees to CORPaTH’s 2022 events, Dec. 13-14 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.