Who is Facebook international man of mystery Robert Parkle and why is he advising Ohio Public Employees Retirement System stakeholders not to follow through with an expert forensic investigation of their state pension? Why did Kasandra Ward from Aurora, Colorado create a fraudulent OPERS Forensic Investigation GoFundMe page apparently to divert funds from the real project? Our nation’s public pensions have never been more precarious and there are powerful interests working hard to keep pension stakeholders in the dark.
Earlier this year, a forensic investigation of the $90 billion-plus State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio commissioned by the Ohio Retired Teachers Association and performed by my firm, was completed. The damning preliminary findings were reported to Ohio legislators, regulators and law enforcement in a 100-plus page report entitled The High Cost of Secrecy.
The report concluded the state teachers’ pension had long abandoned transparency; legislative oversight of the pension had utterly failed; Wall Street had been permitted to pocket lavish fees without scrutiny; investment costs and performance may have been misrepresented; and failure to monitor conflicts may have undermined the integrity of the investment process, as billions that could have been used to pay retirement benefits promised to teachers had been squandered.
Within days of the forensic report’s release, two STRS Ohio board members issued statements supporting its conclusions. NBC News, Bloomberg and local media reported on the investigation. A few months later, the State Auditor announced that the forensic investigation provided a “reasonable basis” for his office to launch a Special Audit. Most recently, a complaint was filed with the Ohio Division of Securities which is being reviewed at this time.
Based upon the strong initial reaction to the STRS Ohio forensic investigation, a large group of participants in the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System asked me to create a OPERS GoFundMe project to raise funds for a forensic investigation of their larger state pension.
This request for a second investigation was not altogether surprising since the STRS Ohio report included the finding that legislative oversight of all 5 Ohio state pensions has failed over the past two decades. In short, the STRS Ohio report revealed it was already clear that all was not kosher with OPERS—a fact which certain persons might find disturbing.
This is when things started getting weird. While I have conducted well over a trillion in forensic investigations, some of which were successfully crowdfunded, none of what happened next has ever happened before.
First, a person claiming to be Kasandra Ward from Aurora, Colorado created a fraudulent OPERS Forensic Investigation GoFundMe page apparently to divert funds from the real project. The fraud involved unauthorized use of my photograph, biography and work product. The good news is no one donated to the fraud and GoFundMe removed it immediately after it was reported. The only question remaining is whether GoFundMe will ever tell me who used my identity to attempt the fraud so that I may take appropriate action. GoFundMe has failed to respond to my request for information.
Then, along came someone identifying himself on Facebook as Robert Parkle, using a stock photograph from Germany of a man talking on a cellphone as his profile picture and claiming to have studied at Harvard University. Sadly, Parkle apparently is a lone wolf—he has absolutely no friends on Facebook. Here’s what Parkle had to say to Ohio pensioners about the proposed forensic investigation of OPERS (by me):
“The only possible gain for retirees paying this guy would be if by some miracle they got higher benefits from it. In no plausible scenario in this world are public pension systems going to INCREASE benefits to anyone, with fewer public employees contributing, too many baby boomers drawing benefits, rising liabilities, higher costs worldwide for health care and the OVERWHELMING popular opinion being that public pension plans should be eliminated, not enhanced. Not happening, no matter what kind of finger-pointing takes place. So go ahead and waste your money. I’m telling my parents and other retirees I know to keep a tight grip on their cash rather that give it to some multimillionaire for nothing.”
In short, says Parkle emphatically, NOTHING GOOD!!! can come from investigating potential looting of hundreds of billions from any of the nation’s public pensions.
As to my previous forensic investigation of Ohio STRS, Parkle says:
“The “forensic audit” that was not conducted by an “auditor?” You mean that “forensic audit?”
Note: Part of STRS’s defense to my damning report earlier this year was to erroneously claim that only CPAs can conduct forensic investigations and since I am merely a former SEC lawyer (and arguably the nation’s leading expert in pension forensics), but not a CPA, my findings were somehow less-than-credible.
In response to the questions, “What happened after the STRS audit; did anything change?” Parkle confidently predicts:
“Nope. And nothing will.” Worse still, he says, A public news story will cast a bad light in public pensions overall—not only are “government workers” getting a big, fat pension that the private sector can’t get, they’re complaining because they have to be on hold for a few hours to get sponsored health care when they retire in their fifties.”
Parkle never responds to questions asked by Facebook Save Ohio Pensions group members about his “being so defensive of the retirement boards and so critical of the retirees who want nothing more than the dignified pension that they worked their entire careers to earn.”
The mysterious Mr. Parkle is certainly entitled to his opinions—if honestly presented in his own name. I sent a message to Parkle inviting him to openly debate forensic investigations and share any insights he may have into management of the nation’s public pensions. To date, he has not responded. On the other hand, if he is a registered investment professional who is gratuitously dispensing self-serving investment advice under a fictitious identity, he may run afoul of regulators.
In conclusion, I won’t speculate who may be seeking to derail the proposed forensic investigation of the $115 Billion Ohio Public Employees Retirement System on behalf of pension stakeholders, or why. One thing is for certain: One or more persons is seeking to disrupt the investigation into potential mismanagement and malfeasance at the massive pension.
Stakeholders in all 5 Ohio public pensions, including OPERS, should be alarmed and securities regulators and law enforcement ought to investigate any apparent violations of law through social media.