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Special audit planned into Ohio teachers' pension fund

Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
Retired teachers hang a banner during a meeting of the State Teachers Retirement Fund board in September. The teachers hired Ted Siedle to do an audit of the fund, and his report has been cited as a reason for the special audit.

The state auditor is planning a review of the pension fund for Ohio’s teachers. This comes as the board for the State Teachers Retirement System gets together for its monthly meeting Thursday.

A letter obtained by the Statehouse News Bureau says the auditor’s office is considering a special audit based on a report by Ted Siedle, who was hired by retired teachers questioning STRS’ stated fund performance and management fees.

Siedle, a former SEC asset management lawyer and head of a firm called Benchmark Financial Services, wrote a report that blasts STRS for lack of transparency and legislative oversight and mismanagement of billions he says could restore a cost of living adjustment that had been reduced in 2013, then restored for a year, then completely suspended in 2017.

Siedle writes in his report that STRS “has long abandoned transparency, choosing instead to collaborate with Wall Street firms to eviscerate Ohio public records laws and avoid accountability to stakeholders. Predictably, billions that could have been used to pay teachers retirement benefits have been squandered over time as transparency has ceased to be a priority.”

“One of the key problems that STRS has that they've lost the trust of their participants. Schoolteachers don't trust them anymore," Siedle said in an interview with the Statehouse News Bureau.

In its response to the Benchmark Financial Services' report, STRS blasted it as having "numerous misstatements and allegations not supported by evidence" and said it’s handed over 22,000 pages of documents to Siedle, who STRS notes is not an auditor or an accountant. STRS has also said the pension fund has beat established benchmarks and outperformed the market over the past decade.

STRS has confirmed the special audit and said it's cooperating with the auditor's office.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at
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