COLUMBIA — The S.C. Supreme Court decided Wednesday that it didn’t need to rule on a lawsuit over whether state Treasurer Curtis Loftis could refuse to pay for a state pension fund investment because Loftis went ahead and signed the check.
The board that oversees pension funds for the state’s public workers sued Loftis last week because he hadn’t sent the $11.7 million needed to cover part of the investment and the state was nearing default. Loftis was refusing to pay the money until he got assurances the state won’t overpay on fees.
Loftis wrote the check Monday, the day before the justices agreed to hear the case. But the arguments went on, with the Retirement System Investment Commission asking the Supreme Court to rule on whether Loftis had any power to withhold money for approved investments.
In their ruling, the justices refused to consider that argument, saying since Loftis wrote the check “there was simply nothing left for the court to order.”
The lack of a ruling means issues between Loftis and the board likely are not resolved. They have clashed repeatedly over control of the $27 billion pension fund.
Loftis is the only elected official on the five-member board, and he said that position as official custodian of the state’s money should allow him and his staff wide latitude to review, approve or veto investments. But the board said an opinion by the attorney general’s office said Loftis does not have that control after an investment is properly approved.
Loftis has said the board pays too much in management fees for its investments and fails to get adequate returns. The board disagreed, voting in February to censure Loftis for what it called “false, misleading and deceitful” comments.
Loftis issued a statement after the ruling. “As State Treasurer it is my fiduciary responsibility to protect these funds which represent the life’s work of hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians. I look forward to working closely with the Investment Commission in streamlining these common-sense safety measures so that we may better protect the fund,” Loftis said.
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