It turns out that bankrupt Detroit practiced the same pension tomfoolery as San Diego, as noted in a New York Times article yesterday (Oct. 23).
Detroit gave extra payments to retirees when the return on the pension fund exceeded 7.9%. In San Diego this was known as "the 13th check," but in cities such as New York, Phoenix, San Jose, and Tampa, it has names such as "the skim fund," "the bump up," and "the waterfall" (an appellation also used in San Diego.)
Times writer Mary Williams Walsh, who covered San Diego's scandal, writes, "San Diego ran into a quagmire in the early 2000s after years of removing 'excess earnings' from its pension fund to sweeten benefits." A consultant found the practice "not mere negligence, but deliberate disregard for the law."
Walsh reports that "San Diego's retirees still receive their extra checks — about $4.7 million last year." Walsh quotes Rick Roeder, the actuary who tangled with San Diego, saying, "There is no actuarial justification for 13th checks. A 7-year-old child could understand this. It's laughable that this could happen, but it did."
Roeder and his firm were sued by San Diego but he was dropped from the suit. His firm settled for an undisclosed amount.