April 27-29 , 2005
Agenda [Download PDF]
The Harvard Labor and Worklife Program's third annual "Capital Matters: Managing Labor's Capital" conference was held on April 27th though the 29th. Organized under the aegis of the Program's new Pensions and Capital Stewardship Project, this year's conference was somewhat larger than in the past, with a total of over 90 participants, presenters, and speakers, including an increased number of union trustees. In keeping with the Project's aim of enabling trustees to become more active and effective, the opening session focused directly on what should and can be done in that regard. More so than at previous conferences, recent challenges to the survival of defined benefit plans both in the private and public sector have become a subject of intense debate while similar heated arguments rage over Social Security. For these reasons several sessions were held to assess the current and future status of those plans and Social Security. There continues to be considerable and increasing pension fund activity arising as a result of ownership of shares in publicly traded corporations. One session focused on a critical assessment of the goals for such activity, for example, whether the aim is to influence corporate governance (and in what ways) or more broadly to affect corporate behavior (and, again, in what ways) and challenges to efforts to achieve agreed-upon goals.
Pension fund investments in other assets, particularly in non-publicly traded corporations, have been rising and there is already a history of such investments and real estate being aimed at achieving collateral goals in ways consistent with meeting trustees' fiduciary responsibility. The last session canvassed the history of such efforts, considered frameworks and methodologies for successfully pursuing them now, and offered an opportunity for critical evaluation of goals to be pursued. Conference speakers, in their remarks, offered broad perspectives on many of the issues discussed during the sessions.