If you believe in the tooth fairy. Just recently during a Settlement Fund update to the Senate by its trustee, Joyce Tang, Sen. Sixto Igisomar dared to demean her performance and question her ability. This from a failed chairman of the bankrupt Fund not known for his expertise in high finance but only for once being a politically appointed favorite of an impeached and convicted ex-governor. So let’s be very clear. When the now senator was the chairman of the NMI Retirement Fund (including Alvaro Santos) years ago, it was he, its legal counsel Viola Alepuyo, and administrator Richard Villagomez who blatantly bankrupted the Fund. How so? To understand their incompetence let’s go back about a decade. And we’ll label them the “Four” with all its permutation.
The Gravy train: The Retirement Fund, fat and sassy, sat with a nearly half-billion dollars, was gleefully lavishing out monies to friends, families, the politically-connected and never mind paying it back, gachong. Such lawmakers, beneficiaries, family, friends, politicos, and team Fitial all vying to gorge themselves on the loot. The monies belonging to the really needy contributors were “stolen” and the “poorer” retirees and those still employed in the government were “robbed.” The central government, recipient of all the employers’ and agencies pay-ins, greedily clung to the contributions for its own corrupt agenda. After many years of its non-contributions to NMIRF, however, central defaulted and soon owed over $325 million. Yet retirees blindly continued to pay-in kamikaze style.
How, you ask, could the above mentioned “Four” of Sixto-Viola-Richard-Alvaro cabal foul-up? They and past rogues gallery of Fund officials and political appointees will remain guilty of the answer.
Defrauding us: Before the enactment of the 2011 Beneficiary Derivative Act the Fund was well beyond its breaking-point and the incompetent trustees and officials still couldn’t get it right. The Fund, the prima facie of how horribly managed the entire government is, set the pace. With the cancelled contracts by financial consultants, money managers, the actuary, and inhouse trustees and counselors quitting their jobs, the Fund keeled over: wildcat law suits from anybody ensued. How did all of the above happen? The Four’s onerous mismanagement and indulgent lawmaking.
The giveaways: Here’s a Keystone Cop history if the Fund’s debacle tenure of the Sleep-walking-four.
Picture this: for every dollar owed to beneficiaries only 36 cents was funded. Millions of dollars were already been paid out in “survivor benefits” to last-minute adoptees (children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and select relatives) even after the original retirees long passed away. Meaning, for every dollar the Fund owed to beneficiaries 66 cents went unfunded, lost to those undeserving beneficiaries.
Declining assets: There stood around 6,000 active and retired contributors while liabilities marched-on with the increasing retirement of other retirees. Now get this: By May 2011 the damage stood at $911 million. What? Is this any way to run a government? This continued to happen with retirees—and undeserving beneficiaries who receive benefits without even paying into the Fund—firmly lodged in the happy times, old Defined Benefit Plan. Everybody blamed anybody and nobody did anything wishing for a miracle, even the Confused-Four.
Enter Bruce Jorgensen: This once-from-here attorney fled the island and then sued the NMIRF. Unbelieving, the Gang of Four and other local “politically correct” luminaries piled on and threatened him. He persevered. His actions put into motion the series of events that saved the retirees lifelong penury. The Spooked-four vowed to doom Bruce. [They lost]
Merrill Lynch: About this time incompetent Fund management and board [the Four] trusted this agency investing the Fund’s monies, until it was caught cheating, Of course ML denied the “allegations” for several years, so did the Believing-Four. October 2015: Merill Lynch finally admitted their crime and was dinged &7.35 million.
Betty Johnson’s Gang of Four: How to plunder the payroll legally. Attorneys Bruce Jorgensen, Margery Bronster (along with Robert Hatch), a local Stephen Woodruff, and another add-on from afar, Timothy Lord. And so what if others throw mud pies its who gets most of the Fund’s loot first that really counts, right? And why quibble over a few millions, anyway? Give us $40.73 million, they harped a couple years later.
Fitial’s folly: It’s the bumper-bellies fault. During Governor Fitial’s first-term in what seems like ages ago, he implemented the now infamous austerity cutbacks because the government was running broke And it got worse. Mass termination of government employees loomed. People panicked. I will make it right with a pension obligation fund, to rebuild the fund after I/your government stops paying in its fair share to the NMIRF, sayeth the governor. A couple of months at the most (PL 15-15) and you can trust me. The people, the lawmakers, the happy-four did.
Throw the bums out: So Betty Johnson whacked the Fund. Then three plaintiff retirees Roman T. Tudela, Mariano Taitano, and Patricia Guerrero sued Merrill Lynch and they also sued the Fund’s politically appointed board of directors for, among other things, incompetence. But wait. Sixto Igisomar and other board members counter-sued them to save their own political fannies. Lucky for Viola Alepuyo and Igisomar they weren’t sent to prison: in the final settlement agreement the lawsuit against them was dismissed, with prejudice.
Don’t blackball us: In any real corporation the Fund’s board members and officials would’ve been fired or jailed forthwith for bankrupting NMIRF and banned from holding government office ever again. But not in this corrupt cesspool called the CNMI government. Thus, instead of firing his protégé, duly embarrassed (then) governor Fitial promoted them, swiftly moving Viola Alepuyo to takeover the Office of the Attorney General. That effort failed however. He also hurriedly appointed Sixto Igisomar to head the Commerce department which, luckily, he didn’t bankrupt during his short tenure. Where are they today? Viola is the counsel for the $7.1-billion Best Sunshine casino development and in November she was appointed as the CNMI civilian aide to the Secretary of the U.S. Army. As for Sixto before becoming the freshmen senator in the 19th Legislature, as the chair for the initial gaming commission he hustled the approval of Best Sunshine’s exclusive casino license. Today, without a doubt he/they continue to conspire with other (GOP) cohorts to commit more incompetence and crimes. It goes to prove, screwing up is not a crime if you don’t get caught.
Up for sale: The primary qualification for being a politically appointed official and lawmaker, as with Sixto, who hotly desires to be re-elected. Why? Less to continue the appearance of being a community “leader” but more to cash-in on the newest gravy train in town the casino. After being a protégé of Fitial he understands that to make it work he must first cast blame upon the Settlement trustee Tang to hide his guilt for bankrupting the Fund. And that applies to the majority of greedy lawmakers and officials salivating to get their cut of the loot before it ends. Fraud, bribery, payoffs and kickbacks? Life is good as long as we concerned citizens forget all of the above.