National Association of State Retirement Administrators

Overview of Public Pension Plan Governance


Although often overlooked or misunderstood, governance–defined as the systems and processes that comprise the oversight and control of an organization–plays an important role in the performance of a state or local government retirement system. Public retirement systems are established under state statutes, local ordinances, or both, and subject to fiduciary, investment, and administrative laws, which both grant authority to, and place restrictions on, entities responsible for one or more key areas of plan governance. This overview is intended to summarize the laws and rules that govern public plans, and the range of entities typically responsible for them. Common law trust laws, as well as the prudence and fiduciary standards required by them, also govern public pensions. Because every public retirement system and pension plan, including its governance structure, is unique, the description provided in this introduction is intended to illustrate typical arrangements and will not apply to every state, system, and plan. Subsequent publications will address some of these unique or atypical governance arrangements. 

Date published

November 2019


Keith Brainard, Research Director
Alex Brown, Research Manager

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