New Public Pensions Laws Increase Legal Challenges


New Public Pensions Laws Increase Legal Challenges

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Public pensions are the dominant fact of municipal fiscal stress. The imperative to fund them adequately places enormous and increasing pressure on government operating budgets, and failure to do so causes municipal credit ratings to fall and the costs of borrowing to increase. These challenges led 86 percent of the respondents to an April 2015 survey of 167 municipal finance analysts to identify public pensions as the most important issue in public finance.

Public pensions are drawing intense scrutiny by lawmakers and voters. Since the financial collapse of 2008 exposed widespread municipal distress, at least 45 states and many of their local governments have attempted to enact reforms of their pension statutes. These efforts have produced a broad array of legal issues, challenges and litigation, and have prompted exquisitely difficult policy choices driven by legal interpretations. As a result, pension jurisprudence is changing rapidly.

Schiff Hardin’s Public Law Group has been active in these important legal developments. We have advised the executive and legislative branches of state and local governments, municipal debt issuers, underwriters, marketers, asset managers, consumers, labor organizations and direct government lenders on the changing public pension law landscape.


  • Served as counsel to the Task Force on the Fiscal Crisis of the States (Volcker/Ravitch), which highlighted pensions and held a national dialogue on public pensions at the New York Fed
  • Pension advice was sought by and provided to the Governor and Treasurer of Rhode Island, the Governor of New Jersey, the Governor of Illinois, the Comptroller of New York State, the Central Labor Council of New York City, the UFT, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the City of Atlanta, the Mayor of Syracuse, the Arnold Foundation, PEW, and others
  • Provided pension advice to the Amalgamated Bank of New York, a direct lender to municipalities
  • Provided advice to the Confidential Feasibility Advisor to the Detroit Bankruptcy Court

Provided pension-related advice at the request of the General Counsel to Black Stone, the largest asset management firm in the world.