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  • STRS Ohio Watchdogs

ORTA is issuing a “truth to power” warning

The Ohio Retirement for Teachers Association (ORTA) is warning the press to closely follow what is happening at the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS). ORTA is issuing a “truth to power” warning.


During the past two STRS elections, ORTA’s reform-minded candidates, who advocate for transparency in investments and safer investment practices, have been resoundingly elected by our members. However, after each of these crucial elections, the STRS staff, in a concerning move, has involved Governor DeWine in an apparent attempt to disrupt the will of the voting members. In the most recent instance, a 14-page 'anonymous' document was delivered to the governor’s office and subsequently to Ohio Attorney General Yost (AG). The focus of this letter was STRS board members Steen and Fichtenbaum. Shockingly, without consulting the accused board members, the AG filed a suit against them based on unverified charges.


ORTA notes that both of these board members challenged the STRS Performance-Based Incentive (PBI) Benchmarks, which are used to award large and controversial bonuses. Steen revealed that the STRS Benchmarks were based on the investment staff’s own performance, yet bonuses were awarded. Fichtenbaum wants PBI benchmarks to be clear and relevant to what STRS projects to be their annual earnings assumption.


Are Board Members Steen and Fichtenbaum being set up? The Ohio AG has charged Steen and Fichtenbaum for not performing their fiduciary duties. ORTA views this quite differently; we think setting proper benchmarks is acting responsibly. STRS staff members must serve STRS members as fiduciaries, too. Receiving performance bonuses under opaque benchmarks merits the AG’s attention. Can Steen and Fichtenbaum receive a fair hearing? Under Ohio Code 109.98, the AG can charge board members, but under Ohio Code 3307.13, the Ohio Attorney General is the STRS legal advisor. How can you receive fair legal advice from the AG office when it sues you?


Was this happenstance? In 2006, in an independent audit required by Ohio law, the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC), an oversight committee, was warned of a grave concern. The independent audit noted that Ohio Codes 190.98 and 3307.13 were in direct conflict. STRS management was warned this needed to be addressed.  Nothing was done by the ORSC, and nothing was done by STRS management.


Here we are 18 years later, and two board members are trying to fix our pension system. They are up against the will of the STRS staff who are trying to protect their investment practices and have solicited the support of the Governor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office. And Ohio law is stacked against them. Please follow this abuse of power closely. 


Ousted STRS Board member, Wade Steen, makes dramatic return to board, armed with court order.



STRS Ohio Board members Rudy Fichtenbaum and Wade Steen are incurring legal fees, defending themselves against the lawsuit brought against them by A.G. Dave Yost. ORTA will use donations from the Pension Defense Fund to help them, if needed, pay their legal expenses. They have volunteered their time to support Ohio's teachers. Now it's time for us to show our support for them! Make a donation today to the ORTA Pension Defense Fund

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