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Published: Friday, 6/30/2006

Ohio agency plans to diversify portfolio


Eight months after the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation reallocated its entire investment portfolio into conservative fixed-income funds, the embattled agency is preparing to diversify.

The bureau is running advertisements in the Wall Street Journal seeking a transition management provider a firm that will assist the bureau when it proceeds with plans to put a portion of its portfolio in equities, such as stocks.

After Blade reports last year exposed problems in the bureau s $15 billion investment fund, the agency s oversight committee decided to fire all of its money managers and place all of the assets in conservative fixed income-funds.

Nancy Smeltzer, a spokesman for the bureau, said the agency has been studying possible profile designs to fit the bureau s business model.

Bureau officials expect to put a portion of the assets in equities in the months ahead.

A transition management provider will be necessary to help the bureau sell some of its current investments bonds, Ms. Smeltzer said. The bureau has released a request for proposals to prospective transition managers.

By having them cued up, when we are ready to go, we can just step up to the plate and start negotiating that transfer, Ms. Smeltzer said.

In a statement released by the governor s office yesterday, Gov. Bob Taft commended the bureau for rebuilding its investment department during the last year.

After reports of problems with the bureau s failed $50 million rare-coin venture with Tom Noe and $215 million in losses in an off-shore hedge fund, the governor assembled a management review team to examine the bureau s investment department.

We remain committed to safeguarding workers compensation funds now and in the future for the betterment of injured workers and employers, Mr. Taft said in the statement, noting the charges at the agency during the past year.

As a result of the scandals surrounding Noe, a prominent GOP fund-raiser, a total of 14 public officials and investment managers have been criminally charged and 11 have been convicted, including Mr. Taft.

Contact Steve Eder at: seder@theblade.com or 419-724-6272.

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