California Pensions

Two huge California public employee union pension programs are trying to eat their cake and profit from it too. They are helping to make a stink out of drug prices, even as those same drug prices are helping to prop up their members’ retirements.

CalPERS and CalSTRS are available to public employees and public school teachers respectively. The pension systems are active members of the National Coalition on Health Care, which runs the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing. That’s significant because NCHC, lead by former AARP heavy John Rother, has been hammering pharmaceutical companies over drug prices.

For instance, after President Donald J. Trump met with the heads of some drug companies, the coalition released a statement charging that “100% of Big Pharma’s earnings growth in 2016 came from price hikes rather than innovation.”

We could quibble about the substance of what NCHC puts out, but it’s worth asking what the California Public employees pension programs are doing as part of that coalition, given their investments.

CalPERS an CalSTERS actively profit off the drug companies that Rother and the Coalition attack. You don’t have to take my word for it, here are some numbers!

As Of June 30, 2016 CalPERS held at least $2.7 billion – with a b – worth of domestic equities in drug companies.

(CalPERS 2015-16 Annual Investment Report)

Same date, same year, CalSTRS held at least $3.2 billion in domestic equities in those same drug companies.

(CalSTRS Domestic Equities)

These public employee union investments are what Al Gore might call an inconvenient truth and most of us would just call rank hypocrisy. Here’s a suggestion for those California public employee pension funds who are trying to have it both ways: Remove that plank from your own eye first. Or just send NCHC packing.