Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has been leading the charge against the change.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has been leading the charge against the change. Brynn Anderson / AP

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Rubio Escalates Attacks in Dispute Over TSP International Fund Changes

The Republican senator urged President Trump to replace the board that administers the Thrift Savings Plan after it refused to reverse course on including Chinese companies in its investment offerings.

The lawmaker at the center of the dispute with the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings program over the decision to expand the Thrift Savings Plan’s international (I) fund to include a broader array of foreign investments stepped up his attack against the agency last week, calling for President Trump to expel its governing board.

Earlier this month, the members of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which administers the TSP, reaffirmed its 2017 decision to change the index upon which the I Fund is based, from the MSCI Europe, Australasia and Far East Index to the MSCI All Country World Ex-US Investable Market Index, a move that will be implemented sometime next year. The decision marks a shift from a predominantly Euro-centric index, along with Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, to investments in 48 markets around the world, most notably including Canada and China.

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has spearheaded the effort to get the TSP to reverse course on allowing investment in Chinese companies by federal employees and retirees, sent a letter to President Trump encouraging him to fire the current board and appoint new members.

“This decision by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board to invest the Thrift Savings Plan’s international fund in an index which includes newly-registered Chinese companies ignores a previous request from Congress to act more prudently with civil servants’ savings,” Rubio wrote, along with Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. “While your administration continues to take important and necessary steps to enforce fair trade laws against Chinese companies that have for too long stolen American jobs and innovations, the FRTIB’s decision forces the U.S. government to invest in them.”

TSP officials have repeatedly noted that the TSP manages federal employees’ money, not the government’s, and that the vast majority of major private sector employers already offer Chinese investments as part of their 401(k)-programs. In an opinion piece for Government Executive, FRTIB Chairman Michael Kennedy and Clifford Dailing, chairman of the Employee Thrift Advisory Council, a coalition of federal employee organizations that advises the TSP, noted that the TSP board is required to act as a fiduciary, and that lawmakers with concerns regarding Chinese investment should contact the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Dailing last week decried a bill introduced by Rubio and cosponsored by both Democrats and Republicans to block the I Fund change.

“Based on both FRTIB’s and investment consultant Aon’s expert guidance, it would be fiscally irresponsible to divest from a fund that has consistently outpaced developed markets over the last 15 years,” Dailing wrote in a letter to Rubio and other sponsors of the bill. “Instituting a mandate at odds with the private sector would wrongfully and unnecessarily disadvantage federal employees and veterans of the armed services.”