In a story last week that received surprisingly little attention in New Jersey, the International Business Times took a look at the fees the state pays to Wall Street firms that manage a big chunk of the state's pension investments.

At one point, most of the management of the state's $80 billion pension portfolio was done in-house by the State Investment Council. But in 2010, Gov. Chris Christie steered more than a third of the portfolio to riskier - and potentially more lucrative - investments managed by large Wall Street hedge funds and private-equity, venture-capital and real-estate firms.

Problem is, according to the article by David Sirota, returns on these riskier investments have lagged the national median for similarly sized pension funds - while the management fees have skyrocketed. According to Sirota's article, New Jersey spent $125.1 million on pension-fund management fees in 2009 before Christie took office. By 2013, the state was spending $398.7 million a year on those fees - an increase of more than a quarter billion dollars.

Oh, and the Wall Street firms that got those fees - their employees have donated more than $11 million to the Republican Governors Association and the Republican National Committee, both of which spent heavily on Christie's re-election campaign, the International Business Times reported.

To be fair, New Jersey was not the only state to move pension funds into riskier investments that have yet to perform as expected. And Christie responds to criticism on this point by noting that this year's return so far is 12.9 percent, which is ahead of projections.

But the state's pension fund has an unfunded liability of almost $50 billion, and New Jersey's fiscal condition is so poor that Christie reneged on $2.4 billion in payments into the pension fund this year and next. Meanwhile, Sirota's article estimated that had the state not paid $939.8 million in management fees since 2010, and had it earned the median rate of return on its pension investments, the fund would have an additional $3.8 billion today.

The risks Christie has taken with this money that is owed to current and former public employees - and the fees that have gone to his well-heeled political donors - remain more than a little troubling.

Especially, it seems, on Labor Day.


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