US - Blackstone Group , the private- equity firm that has been trying to mend relations with New York City's public pension funds, said employees' retirements should not be threatened by government deficits.
"We oppose scapegoating public employees by blaming them for the structural budget deficits that cities and states face," the New York-based firm said. "We at Blackstone are committed to helping public employees retire with confidence in the strength and reliability of their pensions."
New York City pension funds, which are weighing new investments with Blackstone, have pressed the firm to repudiate comments made by chief strategist Byron Wien last year, who said benefits are "too generous."
Blackstone President Tony James met in May with pension representatives and sent a letter to the New York City Employee Retirement System to clarify the firm's position.
That response hasn't satisfied union representatives who sit on the city's five pension boards and vote on which asset managers to hire and fire, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said this month. A scheduled meeting on January 7 in which trustees had planned to ask Blackstone to support public pension benefits in an advertisement was canceled.
"Blackstone's view on public-employee pensions is clear and unambiguous: We believe a pension is a promise," the firm said in today's statement. "Working men and women should not have to worry about their retirement security after years of service to their communities."
Wien, 77, said a year ago in his annual forecast that taxpayers "literally can't afford the benefits we have given our retirees in state and local governments and we have to change that."
Pensions are among the largest investors in buyout and hedge-fund firms such as Blackstone. New York City's pensions committed $225m to Blackstone's latest private-equity fund last year. Three of the funds -- for police officers, firefighters and civilian employees -- are in the process of picking managers to oversee a new hedge-fund investment programme.
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