Loftis balks at signing $50M check

Loftis

— State Treasurer Curtis Loftis is refusing to sign a $50 million check for an investment approved by the commission that oversees the state retirement fund.

Loftis, the commission’s only elected member, voted for the investment with private equity firm Warburg Pincus. But he wants a paper copy of a document to assure that the state won’t overpay fees, rather than the email version he received, The State newspaper reported.

“They want to fund a $50 million investment with retirees’ money. I say to them, ‘I will fund it when it is safe,’ ” Loftis said.

The Retirement System Investment Commission’s chief operating officer said all commissioners received an email with the fee information. Loftis wants a copy signed by the commission’s attorney.

“He’s trying to unilaterally create a new document that currently doesn’t exist,” said COO Darry Oliver. “The commission doesn’t believe he is entitled to do that.”

Commission Chairman Reynolds Williams said he hopes Loftis will “come to his senses” before the bank requests the money next week.

As treasurer, Loftis is the official custodian of the state’s money, meaning he is the only one who can sign the check. If he continues to refuse, the two sides could end up in court.

It’s the latest episode in an ongoing feud between Loftis and his fellow commissioners, particularly Williams, who Loftis unsuccessfully tried to remove last year as chairman.

The first-term treasurer has complained for more than a year that the commission pays too much in management fees for its investments. Other commissioners say the fees serve as incentives for managers to invest wisely, with bonuses given for successes.

Investments are the main source of income for the nearly $27 billion fund that pays retirement benefits to government workers.

Oliver, in the job for less than a month, said he worries that Loftis’ refusal to pay for an approved investment will hurt the state’s reputation in the financial world.

“In my 30 years of doing business, I haven’t seen anything like what I’ve experienced between the commission and the treasurer’s office like I have in the past three weeks,” he said.