By Ed Mendel
Monday, July 29, 2013

Employer satisfaction with CalPERS dropped during the last two years, a new internal survey found, apparently the result of a “perfect storm” of investment losses, scandal, rising rates and other problems.

On a half dozen yes-or-no questions asked in an on-line survey in 2011 and again last month, the average approval rating from CalPERS employers dropped from 74 percent to 61 percent.

The president of the firm that conducted the survey, Peter Michael of Michael Strategic Analysis, told the CalPERS board this month that only 49 percent answering “yes” to the question “Is CalPERS customer service being managed well?” is a red flag.

“This ‘49’ here by employers — that is the single lowest approval rating in any survey for any question ever, all the way back to 1998,” said Michael, who began CalPERS surveys then. “So this really calls out for attention.”

Measuring customer satisfaction with the California Public Employees Retirement System had been limited in the past to active and retired members, now totaling 1.65 million.

Three years ago the CalPERS board approved an expanded look at the system’s “reputation and credibility” after huge investment losses, a pay-to-play scandal and an emerging national debate about whether public pensions are sustainable.

The stakeholder survey added a sample from employers (1,576 state and local government agencies and 1,488 school districts) in 2011. This year the survey began including CalPERS employees.

Another firm, Risk to Reputation, is scheduled to begin conducting in-depth interviews with stakeholders this summer and providing quarterly media analysis. The project is scheduled to continue through 2015.

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