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Saturday, November 20, 2021

Pension Investing for "Succession" Planning

ERISA practitioners have long known that pension money is a (if not the) main source of investment in the global capital markets. ERISA money was once referred to by an NBC white paper  as the "biggest lump of money in the world."

So, when you hear that IBM or Lockheed or Honeywell or  or GM or GE or . . . well, you get the idea . . . is in a deal, no it's not. It's the IBM pension plan, the Lockheed pension plan, the Honeywell pension plan, the Weyerhaeuser pension plan, the GM pension plan, the GE pension plan, etc., etc., etc. ERISAns have knows this for years. 

And it's not just ERISA money. You've got state-governmental and both private and public non-US pensions, as well, rivaling and in some contexts surpassing ERISA money in terms of magnitude and relevance. 

[minor spoiler alert - if you don't want ANY discussion of episodes you may not have seen, read no further]

HBO Max's Succession seems to get it. During the November 14, 2021 episode, Kieren Culkin's Roman Roy, in bemoaning a key shareholder vote bearing on (what else?) succession, made the sarcastic suggestion, “Let's just throw it open to the f–ing retired janitors of Idaho.” The reference here (especially given the word "retired") is almost certainly a reference to pension ownership of company shares. Not sure the quip is entirely on the (so to speak) money, in that, unless it's a participant-directed plan with a passthrough, it's the fiduciaries and not the participants who are making the decisions - but it's just a quip, and you get the point. 

And, just for emphasis, the concept even makes it into the rarified air inhabited by the very title of the episode: "Retired Janitors of Idaho". Nifty. 

Indeed, this is not the first time Succession has indicated that the point is well-understood. Back in Season 1, the ubiquitous Canadian pension fund surfaced during a private-equity hostile-takeover play for the Roy company (when, for example, a bunch of Canadian pension-fund guys made some extremely disparaging remarks about poor Kendall). 

Janitors, Canadians, whatever - with apologies to Billy Joel, it's still pension money to me.

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