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New York’s retirement fund: a modern day Parable of Talents?

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A portion of New York state employees' retirement fund is used to invest in private businesses. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (above) is the sole trustee of that fund.

There’s that old story from the Bible where three servants are given some of their master’s money while he’s out of the office. Two of them grow their investments and the third, well, he buried it in some sand and received a hearty dressing-down upon the master’s return.  

This is a lot like New York’s Common Retirement Fund. Think of Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli as the master and the In-state Investment Program as the servant. DiNapoli uses some money from the state employee pension fund to invest in private businesses. The money is not just being buried it in the sand, so to speak.

Today in Buffalo, DiNapoli (who is running for re-election) is announcing a $15 million fund for small high tech companies in the earliest stages of development.

Although it has shrunk in the past few years (hasn’t everything financial-related?), it’s still $128 billion strong. Nearly $1 billion has been set aside for this kind of investment. That’s less than .7% of the total.

This isn’t free money: companies that accept the investment must commit to remaining in New York State.

On Friday, DiNapoli announced a half million dollar investment in OyaGen, a pharmaceutical company focused on drug treatments for HIV/AIDS. That brings the state’s total investment in the Henrietta-based company for $1 million.

According to the New York Comptroller's Office:

More than $480 million has been invested in 155 companies through the In-state Private Equity Program. The Fund has achieved a 30 percent rate of return on the investments it has exited. DiNapoli added $518 million to the program since he took office in 2007, bringing the total amount committed to the program to $971 million. The Fund has approximately $490 million available to invest in New York-based companies.


WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.