Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner unveiled his "Transparent Treasury" initiative, which includes several new policies and tools that he said would enhance the openness and accountability of the state treasury, including the retirement system.
"With today's launch, Rhode Island now has the most transparent state treasury in the country," said Magaziner, a former Common Cause Rhode Island board member who was elected treasurer last fall. "This commitment to open government will help us produce better financial results for our state."
The initiative includes a policy under which Rhode Island will only invest with managers who agree to public disclosure of performance, fees, expenses and liquidity for all new investments. It also involves the launch of major enhancements to the Treasury website, including an interactive investment information center and an open data portal, http://www.data.treasury.ri.gov/, that offers what Magaziner called unprecedented access to all state treasury data.
In addition, Magaziner intends to appoint a chief transparency officer for his department.
Disclosure is a big plus for investors, according to Paul Mansour, managing director and head of municipal research at Conning & Co. in Hartford, Conn. "If it's a close call, I want the states and sectors where I can call people and get information," he said at a recent investor conference in Boston. "This reflects a lot of blocking and tackling."
Magaziner told reporters that transparency has four underpinnings: investments, contracts, data and ethics. Rhode Island, he said, will continue its ban on paying placement agents for investments from the state's pension fund, and continue to require every investment manager to sign a code-of-conduct pledge that disallows "de minimis" political contributions.
Treasury, said Magaziner, intends to launch full governance reviews of the State Investment Commission and the Retirement Board by year's end. In addition, said Magaziner, Treasury has published an online calendar of all contract end dates, as well as proposed dates for new RFPs, for the first time ever.
"I appreciate Treasurer Magaziner's efforts to ensure that our state and municipal members, both active and retired, understand the pension system and how it is invested," said J. Michael Downey, president of Rhode Island Council 94 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
"I believe today's announcement is a step in the right direction and [we look] forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the treasurer."