The Office of the Comptroller
About John C. Liu
As the 43rd Comptroller of the City of New York, John C. Liu is responsible for ensuring the City’s financial health.
Independently elected and sworn into office on Jan. 1, 2010, Comptroller Liu audits the finances and performance of City agencies, reviews City contracts, reports on the state of the City’s budget and economy, markets municipal bonds, and serves as custodian and trustee of the five New York City Pension Funds. Since taking office, Liu has worked aggressively to ensure that New Yorkers’ tax dollars are spent wisely.
In three years, he has produced more than $3 billion in cost savings for the City by vigorously rooting out wasteful City spending on consultants and technology contracts. Audits of the CityTime automated payroll system and a long-delayed 911 call center have brought to light hundreds of millions of dollars of mismanagement and malfeasance.
Liu has also worked to refinance high-interest-rate bonds, saving taxpayers close to $2 billion in debt-service payments since 2010.
As financial steward of the New York City Pension System, Liu modernized the pensions’ management in order to ensure that it is best in class among peer institutional investors worldwide. The five pensions together have grown 40 percent during his tenure.
An activist investor, Liu committed to investing $1 billion from the New York City Teachers Retirement System, in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative, to restore infrastructure damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Under Liu’s leadership, the five City pension funds together undertook investments of $500 million to rebuild or create affordable housing and commercial space in Sandy-ravaged areas, which with leverage will amount to a $1.4 billion infusion of capital into those neighborhoods.
This activism extends to the realm of corporate governance. For example, Liu forced six major banks, including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase, to strengthen their clawback policies to recover pay from employees and executives whose actions expose the firms to substantial financial or legal repercussions. He also successfully pushed Goldman Sachs and MetLife, among other companies, to start disclosing the race and gender composition of their workforces.
Liu is particularly concerned about creating jobs for New Yorkers. He proposed and helped implement a plan to accelerate work on $1 billion worth of critical infrastructure projects, creating 8,000 jobs and saving $200 million. Another Liu job-creation initiative, Green Apple Bonds, would rid public-school buildings of toxic PCBs six years ahead of schedule, while creating 3,000 jobs and saving $339 million by improving energy efficiency.
Liu has also proposed far-sighted initiatives and issued research reports in an effort to better the lives of New Yorkers. His Retirement Security NYC seeks to protect the retirement security of public employees while ensuring the City’s financial health. Beyond High School NYC envisions raising the percentage of New Yorkers with a post-secondary degree to 60 percent by the year 2025 in order to improve the City’s competitive position in the global economy.
One of America’s pre-eminent proponents of government transparency, Liu launched the Checkbook NYC website in order to provide the public with unprecedented access to information about all expenditures in the City budget. Part of “My Money NYC,” a suite of online applications that enables viewing of City contract and pension data and live webcasts of Pension Board investment meetings, Checkbook NYC was judged by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group as the premier municipal transparency site in the country.
Finally, Liu has worked assiduously to level the playing field for all New Yorkers by promoting government contracting opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses. For example, by inviting competitive bids to manage a City bond issue, the Comptroller’s office received a much greater number of proposals and selected a well-qualified minority-owned firm instead of a firm from the standard rotation. In order to measure City agencies’ progress in eliminating such contracting disparities, Liu launched “M/WBE Report Card NYC,” an online, real-time record of money spent by City agencies with minority- and women-owned businesses.
Liu served on the New York City Council from 2002 to 2009, representing District 20 in Queens and heading the Council’s Transportation Committee. His accomplishments as a legislator included exposing financial irregularities at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, shepherding bills through the Transportation committee designed to enhance administrative efficiency, and enacting legislation ensuring equal access to City services regardless of language ability. Before his election to the Council, he managed a team of actuaries at Pricewaterhouse Coopers.
Liu is honored to be the first Asian-American elected to legislative and then citywide office in New York. He was “Made in Taiwan” and immigrated to New York with his family when he was five years old. He is a proud product of the New York City public schools, from kindergarten at P.S. 20 in Queens through graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. He is also a proud public-school parent.
Liu earned his bachelor’s of science from the State University of New York at Binghamton in mathematical physics. He lives in Flushing, Queens, with his wife, Jenny, and their son, Joey.