Kasich’s role in pension talks may have been bigger

COLUMBUS — The Strickland campaign dug out records that show Republican John Kasich may have played a slightly larger role in trying to land business for Lehman Brothers with the Ohio public pension funds than what Kasich previously disclosed.

This spring, Kasich said that he arranged introductory meetings between officials at Lehman Brothers and managers at the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund and the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System. His campaign said that that was the end of Kasich’s involvement.

But a manager at the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio recalls Kasich making a sales pitch to him during a short telephone call in mid-2002, according to a response by STRS to a public records request from the Ohio Democratic Party. STRS used a different firm for the real estate deal, not Lehman Brothers.

Kasich campaign spokesman Rob Nichols said Kasich does not recall the 10-minute phone call from eight years ago.

One of the Lehman Brothers representatives that Kasich introduced to the pensions in 2002 was John Dwyer, according to the Strickland campaign. Just three weeks before Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in September 2008, Dwyer tried to sell OPERS on investing in funds managed by Lehman Brothers, including the Distressed Structured Credit Fund. OPERS didn’t buy.

Ohio State University finance professor Stephen Buser, who served on the STRS board from 2005 to 2007, said it appears Lehman Brothers was pushing toxic investments to the pension system even as Lehman was preparing for bankruptcy.

Nichols said Dwyer was not at the initial meeting with the pension systems and Kasich doesn’t know Dwyer. “After that meeting, John was no longer involved in discussions, and therefore knew nothing about any subsequent efforts by others at the firm to sell Lehman products to the funds,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kasich started running a 30-second campaign commercial in which he downplays his role at Lehman Brothers, where he was paid $570,000 in salary and bonuses for 2008.

Ohio’s public pension systems lost between $220 million and $480 million on Lehman assets, according to calculations by the state treasurer’s office.

Contact this reporter at (614) 224-1624 or lbischoff@DaytonDailyNews.com.

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