Massachusetts has come to terms with a Greater Boston transit union on an agreement to release pension data long cloaked in secrecy and controversy.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 589 - known commonly as the Boston Carmen's Union -- included the MBTA Retirement Fund disclosure Wednesday as part of a $94 million agreement that includes 10% in raises over five years, retroactive to 2012. The agreement includes anti-spiking provisions.
One longtime critic questioned the effectiveness of the move.
"State leaders had an opportunity for real negotiation and real reform, but opted for so much window dressing instead," said Iliya Atanasov, senior fellow for finance at Boston think tank Pioneer Institute. "The only meaningful changes are the anti-spiking provisions, but it remains to be seen how far they will go.
"Handing over individual pension numbers to the MBTA is no news and I am skeptical about how much detail they will disclose about their payments and contracts with third parties."
Lawyers for the $1.6 billion fund, backed by a favorable 1993 state Supreme Judicial Court ruling that the fund operates as a private trust, have argued against a sunshine provision of the 2009 transportation overhaul law.
The fund, which operates separately from the MBTA, came under harsh glare last fall after revelations that it lost a $25 million investment in an apparent Ponzi scheme through a hedge fund run by bankrupt Fletcher Asset Management. Published reports also have connected the fund's dealings to associates of convicted mass murderer James "Whitey" Bulger.
Pioneer Institute and some state lawmakers have lobbied for disclosure, citing that the "T," as locals call the transit system, contributed $55 million in 2013 toward pension costs.
The controversy simmers amid nationwide debate over public pension funding. Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey all received downgrades this year from major bond-rating agencies over pension liability.
Pioneer in a July report said cronyism and "endemic" conflicts of interest make the Greater Boston transit employees' pension fund a cautionary tale for institutional investors. In February, Pioneer said that without taxpayer support, the fund would go bust between 2024 and 2036.
Messages seeking comment were left with Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Richard Davey, MBTA general manager Beverly Scott and fund officials.