The West Virginia Investment Management Board came into existence in the spring of 1997 after years of hard work modernizing the State’s investment management structure. This structural modernization was widely acknowledged as a necessary precursor to the passage of a constitutional referendum to allow investment in stocks. The risks were perceived to be too great to be managed by anything but a modern, professional entity.
Although the West Virginia Investment Management Board’s predecessors, the West Virginia State Board of Investments and the West Virginia Trust Fund, Inc., brought about vast improvements, each had significant shortcomings. However, with the creation of the West Virginia Investment Management Board, the State achieved a balance between control and independence that will allow efficient and prudent investment management of long-term assets well into the future.
The beginning of the modern era in investment management by the State goes back to the late 1970s with the consolidation of the investment authority for the State’s defined benefit plans, employment security plans, and other assets into a newly created West Virginia State Board of Investments.
Significantly, this newly created West Virginia Board of Investments was staffed by the State Treasury and the board itself was made up of the State’s Governor, Treasurer, and Auditor.
Although a step in the right direction, the initial West Virginia State Board of Investments lacked proper or sufficient control features. After a few problems in the 1980s, principally involving its short-term pool, the Consolidated Fund, the board was expanded to seven members, adding four members from the private sector including an attorney experienced in financial matters and a Certified Public Accountant.
The beginning of the modern era in investment management by the State goes back to the late 1970s with the newly created West Virginia State Board of Investments.
In the fall of 1990, the Legislature took a huge leap forward by creating a staff for the West Virginia State Board of Investments separate from the staff of the Treasury. This provided clear accountability to the Board of Investments—something that did not exist previously.
Other very important control features included: (1) a statutory requirement for an Internal Auditor, (2) an annual external audit by a certified public accounting firm, and (3) monthly reporting requirements to government leaders in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. This last feature dictated that all pools with a weighted average maturity in excess of 90 days must be marked-to-market (carried at market value), something that had not been done in the 1980s.
At the same time, the West Virginia Board of Investments made its first tepid step towards a diversified portfolio to be invested in stocks domiciled in the United States. Although it made some initial stock purchases in 1993, which were subsequently liquidated at a gain, the statute was challenged and the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that investing in equities was unconstitutional.
The Legislature carved out the pension and employment security funds with long time horizons and placed them in a trust to be managed by a new entity called the West Virginia Trust Fund, Inc.
In 1996, in an effort to satisfy the constitutional strictures, the Legislature carved out the pension and employment security funds with long time horizons and placed them in a trust to be managed by a new entity called the West Virginia Trust Fund, Inc. The creation of the trust as a vehicle to allow investment in stocks was also challenged and was struck down, failing to satisfy the constitutional concerns of the Supreme Court. It did, however, bring about three very important changes. The Legislature, demonstrating impeccable managerial foresight, granted the West Virginia Trust Fund, Inc. control over its own budget. With the same foresight, the Legislature imposed personal fiduciary liability on the board and staff of the West Virginia Trust Fund, Inc. Of no less importance was the creation of representative roles for members of the retirement systems and employment security systems.
All of the improvements made in the Board of Investments and the West Virginia Trust Fund, Inc. were incorporated into a new entity, the West Virginia Investment Management Board.
With the failure of the West Virginia Trust Fund, Inc., it and the West Virginia State Board of Investments were replaced in 1997 by a new entity, the present day West Virginia Investment Management Board. The basic modernization process was complete. All of the improvements made in the Board of Investments and the West Virginia Trust Fund, Inc. were incorporated into a new entity.
The Legislature, for policy reasons, transferred the Consolidated Fund on July 8, 2005 to a newly created West Virginia Board of Treasury Investments, chaired by the State Treasurer. This was widely perceived as a policy move to ensure direct governmental oversight of State general and special revenue funds. The West Virginia Investment Management Board continues to manage the retirement funds, the employment security funds, and other assets with long time horizons.
In 2007 the Legislature expanded the investable universe of assets, increasing the allowable allocation to public equity and international securities, while also providing for a significant allocation to “alternative investments,” loosely defined as hedge fund and private equity. Finally, in 2014, all statutory percentage limitations on investments were eliminated as the Legislature deferred to the statutory Prudent Investor Rule as the most effective means of defining appropriate investment strategies.