Dispatch settles with Ohio BWC

The Columbus Dispatch has reached de facto settlements with most of the private equity funds that had received limited partner commitments from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (OBWC).

The newspaper had asked for public disclosure of each fund’s top-line and bottom-line performance, which would have included portfolio company valuations and other sensitive information contained in such documents as quarterly LP reports.

PE Week asked for a settlement update from each of OBWC’s general partners. Most did not respond. One source says that at least a few plan to defend themselves in court.

Those firms that confirmed a pending settlement were Ascend Venture Group, Behrman Capital, Blue Point Capital Partners, Castle Harlan and Reservoir Venture Partners. The Carlyle Group and Meritage Private Equity declined to comment, while River Cities Capital said it had been released from the suit because it had not objected to the requests.

Each general partner will sign a fund-specific agreement, although many of the deals have not yet been formally signed. In general, however, the amenable firms will release three pieces of information to the Dispatch:

• Overall fund carrying value

• Portfolio company names

• Type of security invested into each portfolio company (such as preferred or convertible, for example)

Portfolio company valuations will remain confidential, as will any portfolio company-specific notes taken by an OBWC consultant during its evaluation last year. The fund-level results of the Ennis Knupp report already have been disclosed.

If this sounds familiar, that is because the agreement is patterned on similar ones in California and Texas. In those cases, a local newspaper pressed for total transparency, while the state pension system refused. What made Ohio different is that OBWC sided with the Dispatch, thus leaving general partners to fend for themselves.

Part of OBWC’s reason for favoring transparency was political. The pension fund had been wracked by scandals, such as the co-called “Coingate” incident. that at least tangentially involved disgraced Congressman Bob Ney. Moreover, OBWC early on decided to sell its entire private equity portfolio on the secondary market, thus eliminating any need to maintain strong GP relationships. —Dan Primack