Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Secretary-General: Minimize risks to our pensions caused by weakened investment governance and risk management, 12 April 2016

You will recall the letter dated 11 February 2016 from Ms. Theresa Panuccio, Acting Chair of the Pension Board Assets and Liabilities Monitoring Committee to the Secretary-General citing several grave operational risks in the form of a “dangerously understaffed” Investment Management Division headed by the Representative of the Secretary-General for Investments, Carolyn Boykin, and a “loud danger signal” in the form of transactions conducted outside of established procedures. (Ms. Panuccio’s letter and Mr. Takasu’s response of 16 February 2016 are both available on the blog).

Now, the Chair of the Pension Board Assets and Liabilities Monitoring Committee, Pierre Sayour, writes on 7 March 2016, to the Secretary-General,  stating that neither Mr. Takasu’s response to the Committee’s previous letter nor additional information provided to the Committee by the RSG has allayed its concerns.

The Committee is concerned not only about the continuing senior level vacancies (including Investment Director (D2) and Deputy Director for Risk Management and Compliance (D1)), Mr. Sayour states, but also about IMD’s continued operation with an outdated Investment Policy Statement (IPS). The Committee is further concerned about the RSG’s statement to the Committee at its 4-5 February 2016 meeting of "possible changes to the Fund’s investment philosophy and approved UNJSPF Risk Appetite. . . which do not seem to recognize the fiduciary obligation of the Secretary-General and the RSG to ‘achieve the maximum investment return within an acceptable level of risk’ as expressed in the approved UNJSPF Risk Appetite Statement.”

Mr. Sayour requests for the Secretary-General’s intervention to ensure that “in light of the weakened investment governance and risk management in a volatile investment market environment under which IMD is currently operating, these matters are properly considered and prioritized and concrete actions are promptly implemented to minimize risks to our pensions.”

Mr. Takasu, on 29 March 2016, responds that recruitment timelines and plans to expedite recruitment for the vacant senior posts are underway;  the RSG will present the updated Investment Policy Statement to the next Pension Board meeting; the RSG has assured the Audit Committee that "the transaction was in compliance with the respective procedures";  and that the “Secretary-General takes his fiduciary responsibilities for the investment and the long-term sustainability of the Fund very seriously [and] we  will continue to provide guidance and assistance to the RSG to assist her to urgently address and conclude these critical matters.”

Note: This latest exchange of letters was found posted on the AFICS website today, under the title "Update on High-Level Vacancies in the Investments Management Division of the Pension Fund". 

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