It's not every day you find Governor-elect Gina Raimondo and one of her leading critics, Edward "Ted" Siedle, getting praised in the same place.
Yet "the 2014 Pension 40" -- the second annual highlight of such notables compiled by Institutional Investor -- has kind words for Raimondo and Siedle as key players in "an intensifying political struggles" over pensions. Not surprisingly, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner -- whose state is the scene of a high-stakes pension fight -- grabs the #1 slot.
Raimondo has been something of a darling for Institutional Investor, which bills itself as an authority on "International Finance for Global Investors."
This time around, Raimondo ranks 14th in Institutional Investor's most impactful pension players of 2014, down from 11th in 2013.
The publication notes the governor-elect's role in spearheading the 2011 overhaul of the state pension system and it calls that "just the first step in her plan for an economic revival of Rhode Island." Raimondo told Institutional Investor, "Having the money to invest in the future and ability to attract businesses was totally enabled by what we did around pensions." Like others, Institutional Investor cites her election as proof "that it is possible for a Democrat to take on pension reform and survive," and it offers this quote from Raimondo: "People love leaders who actually get things done."
Siedle wrote a scathing critique of Raimondo's pension overhaul in Forbes.com and was hired by AFSCME's Council 94, the latest group of unionized state employees, to further scrutinize the pension changes.
Siedle places 33rd in Institutional Investors' Pension Top 40. The publication credits him with having "spent more than three decades pioneering pension forensics, searching out excessive and hidden fees, conflicts of interest and transparency problems." The publication notes his role in Rhode Island's pension debate and Siedle's broader critique of pensions as a wealth transfer from public employees to Wall Street.
In one of his emailed newsletters, the Florida-based Siedle calls his selection "a welcome surprise."
Siedle adds: "While the underfunding of many defined benefit plans has been evident for over a decade, and thousands of failed corporate pensions have been taken over by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, investigating Wall Street's role in the demise of these retirement plans has been of no interest to elected officials, pension fiduciaries, law enforcement or regulators. When pensions fail, it's no one's fault, is the prevailing wisdom. No good can possibly come from a post-mortem. I disagree. The reasons pensions fail are readily apparent under expert scrutiny and failures are foreseeable -- even preventable."
A few other pension players with Rhode Island ties also made Institutional Investors' Top 40 list.
Raimondo supporters John and Laura Arnold, who helped fund Engage RI -- the group formed to build support for the 2011 pension overhaul -- place 2nd in the tally (up from 3rd last year).
Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers, who spoke a few years back in Central Falls, ranks 3rd, down from the #1 spot in 2013.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie makes his first appearance on II's list at #9. As the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie repeatedly stumped for GOP gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung in his losing battle with Raimondo.
Super-lawyer David Boies, who has worked for the state as part of its pension defense, comes in for the second consecutive year in the fifth spot.
And hedge fund titan Daniel Loeb places 34th, down from 18th. Under Raimondo's leadership, the state earlier this year removed more than $74 million from management by Loeb's firm, sparking some criticism that the move was politically motivated.