Blackstone Moves To Repair Pension Reputation

Jan 20 2011 | 2:56am ET

The Blackstone Group yesterday offered a mea culpa for the words of its top strategist.

The private equity giant issued a statement making clear that it rejects Byron Wien’s opinion, offered last year, that the U.S. “literally can’t afford the benefits we have given our retirees in state and local government and we have to change that.” The firm offered the public repudiation as it strives to appease New York City’s public pension funds, which abruptly cancelled a meeting with the firm earlier this month.

“We oppose scapegoating public employees by blaming them for the structural budget deficits that cities and states face,” the firm said. “We at Blackstone are committed to helping public employees retire with confidence in the strength and reliability of their pensions.”

“Blackstone’s view on public-employee pensions is clear and unambiguous: We believe a pension is a promise.”

It is unclear if the public statement will appease the Big Apple’s union chiefs or their representatives on the boards of the five city pensions. Previous efforts, including a meeting in May with Blackstone President Tony James and a letter published in Pensions & Investments failed to do the trick. Union representatives on three of the five boards—those that cancelled a meeting with James set for Jan. 7—reportedly want Wien himself to retract his statement.


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