Mass pension fund exec warns banks may repeat mistakes

April 7, 2008

travaglini1.jpgMassachussets State Pension Fund Executive Director Michael Travaglini says the Bay State’s pension fund, one of the nation’s largest, won’t be following the lead of New Jersey’s anytime soon — at least not in terms of direct investments in banks. He thinks that New Jersey — like some prominent sovereign wealth funds — viewed its recent investments in Citigroup and Merrill Lynch “almost as a necessity” to help prop up the financial system.
But even if he understands their motives, Travaglini isn’t sure rescuing troubled investment banks from Merrill Lynch to Bear Stearns is the right thing to do.
“If there’s always a net, whether it’s the Fed, whether it’s New Jersey, whether it’s Abu Dhabi, to me there’s a risk that there’s nothing learned,” he said. “I don’t want people to repeat the same mistakes. I think reasonably people could argue this whole subprime mess is a mistake that has been repeated two or three times throughout history.”
To Travaglini, the danger of lessons not getting learned reminds him of his own kids and why they must learn the consequences of mistakes.
“Why would they avoid getting in the same predicament if they had known they were going to get taken off the hook,” he said, speaking at the New York segment of the Reuters Hedge Funds and Private Equity Summit.

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Thanks for this article, yet another timely reminder that we should not rely on the government for our comfort in retirement.