Cinda Klickna, trustee of the State of Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), was preparing to vote in June 2019 on a proposed $75 million investment in a new fund being raised by First Light Capital (FLC), a midsized buyout firm. Illinois had been under financial pressure for some time, and TRS, the state’s largest public pension, was seriously underfunded. In 2012, TRS’s board began a plan to strategically increase its allocations to private equity (PE). By 2018, the target allocation to PE had reached 15%, well above the 10% average of other public pensions. The increase in PE was undertaken in an attempt to close the funding gap necessitated by insufficient state funding and the generally low-interest-rate environment. The strategy had not gone unnoticed, and many now openly questioned the higher risk and costs of these investments. In the face of this greater scrutiny, Klickna believed it was important that the pension’s PE investments earn a satisfactory return, by looking to invest in funds that had upper-quartile returns and public market equivalents (PMEs) greater than one.
This case is appropriate for courses that cover PE investments, such as those typically covering topics on venture capital or PE, or courses on asset management that include alternative assets. It introduces students to some of the commonly used PE performance metrics and the challenges associated with measuring performance for an illiquid asset class. Students are introduced to the Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS) and their purposes and limitations in evaluating performance. Students are asked to calculate the gross and net since-inception internal rate of return (SI-IRR), DPI, RVPI, TVPI, and PME for the same pending investment in FLC Fund IV and compare how performance is assessed across these metrics. The case also discusses the push for greater disclosure in the PE industry as it grows in its influence and public investors seek to know more about its performance.