PUCKER UP: Blackstone Caves To New York City Unions And Releases A Public Apology

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Blackstone just released a statement that is clearly in order to appease New York City’s pension fund managers, which had been black-balling them because they were offended by a statement the firm’s economist, Byron Wien, made last year.

Here’s the statement the firm made yesterday, via the Wall Street Journal:

Blackstone’s view on public employee pensions is clear and unambiguous: We believe a pension is a promise. Working men and women should not have to worry about their retirement security after years of service to their communities. We oppose scapegoating public employees by blaming them for the structural budget deficits that cities and states face. We at Blackstone are committed to helping public employees retire with confidence in the strength and reliability of their pensions.”

It’s so humble compared to their last “apology!” (It’s bolded below.)

It also does the job of saying both you were right, we were wrong and, yes, we do want your money, both of which Blackstone needed to do in order to repair the relationship that was damaged by Byron Wein’s statement last year.

What had happened was that city pension fund managers had recently been considering investing in Blackstone, Steve Schwarzman’s shop. They even had a meeting scheduled with, among other fund-of-fund managers like Legg Mason’s, Blackstone President Tony James on January 7th, according to Bloomberg.

That is, until they remembered the comment Byron Wien made a year ago, and how they didn’t appreciate how Blackstone apologized. So they cancelled the meeting, the second meeting they had cancelled with Blackstone since Wein’s comments.

What happened was this:

During a Jan. 5 [2010] webcast with Blackstone clients, Mr. Wien answered a question about government deficits by saying, in part:

“The retirement benefits for state workers, really not only in New York, California and New Jersey, but throughout the country, are very generous. Too generous. And it is very hard to change that. … But I think we have to be more realistic. We literally can’t afford the benefits we have given our retirees in state and local governments. And we have to change that.”

Then in June, Blackstone’s Joan Solotar wrote a very nice note saying, among other things (which you can read by clicking here),

Retirees “who put in years of service should have the means needed to live comfortably for the balance of their days.”

And Wien, said he didn’t really mean what he said in an interview:

“I was answering a question about something related to the webcast, and my comments got misconstrued.”

But apparently that wasn’t enough of an apology, because Blackstone had to backtrack and release the much nicer statement up top.

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