CFO Sink wants improvements at state’s investment agency

Mar 7, 2008

The board that oversees the state’s investments needs professional help, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said Thursday.

Miami Herald–Mar. 06, 2008

Sink, a career banker, Gov. Charlie Crist and Attorney General Bill McCollum – both attorneys and largely career politicians – serve as the trustees overseeing the state Board of Administration. The agency invests state money, the state’s pension fund and also money for local governments.

Last year, however, local governments withdrew about half of the money from the local government investment pool in a panic after some securities were downgraded.

Sink made several recommendations Thursday to help the state better safeguard its investments, including adding two financial professionals to the board to help her, Crist and McCollum in their oversight role.

A longtime banking executive before winning election in 2006, Sink is also looking into whether the state can sue investment firms that sold it securities that became mired in the nation’s mortgage crisis last year.

Sink didn’t propose any specific legislation, but said she hoped the recommendations – on the third day of the 2008 legislative session – would serve as a framework for lawmakers who are also taking their own hard look at the agency.

Just last month the state chose a Pittsburgh-based company, Federated Investors Inc., to take over management of its local government investment pool, hoping the private investment firm would reassure investors who withdrew more than $15 billion in the panic last year.

“A lot of people are nervous out there about the status of the state’s investments,” said Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Board Association, who applauded Sink’s actions.

Sink’s recommendations also won praise from Jeannie Garner, who chairs the Local Government Investment Pool Advisory Committee, which represents the cities and other local governments invested in the pool. Garner said the recommendations address concerns investors had with the board.

Associated Press Writer David Royse contributed to this report.