Amid controversy, MBTA Retirement Fund performing better in 2017

Boston Globe | By Adam Vaccaro | July 21, 2017

Under fire for lackluster performance and secretive practices, officials managing the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority pension fund said its investment returns have improved considerably in the last year.

Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589, whose members have three of the pension fund’s board seats, released figures this week showing the $1.5 billion pension fund posted a 12.3 percent return over the last 12 months and 4.8 percent over the last three years.

Those figures paint a considerably better picture of the agency’s retirement balances than the one used by the Baker administration, which is pressing the union and pension fund for reforms. By their measure, the pension fund gained 6.2 percent in 2016 and 3.9 percent over the three years that ended last December.

The difference comes down to time periods: state officials are using a calendar-year cycle, while the union’s figures reflect performance from July through June, a fiscal-year calendar.

Carmen’s Union president James O’Brien, who also is a director of the pension fund, accused the Baker administration of using a selective period of poor returns to paint the fund as unstable.

“The volatility changes year to year,” he said. “They are trying to create a crisis here to gain leverage in upcoming pension negotiations next year.”

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