Hoaxes, Rumors and the TSP: Are the Losses in Your TSP I Fund The Fault of A Scoundrel?

The internet can spread rumors faster than a flu virus. The latest one to impact the federal workforce: accounting irregularities in the I fund and the role of a fictitious individual.

The internet is a valuable source of information. Unfortunately, it is also a hotbed for rumors and enables a false rumor to spread around the world faster than a new flu virus.

Some of the more common rumors involve federal employee pay and benefits. A perennial favorite is that everyone in the CSRS is going to be given extra money to leave federal service. Another favorite is that many federal employees will get extra money as part of a buy-out offer to entice them to leave to make room for new federal employees.

Most of these turn out to be false, including the two mentioned above.

The latest example is a little more imaginative. Possibly fueled by someone hoping that recent losses in the I fund of the Thrift Savings Plan were due to fraud or other illegal activity,  FedSmith started receiving queries from readers in the past two days asking about a man named "Samuel Hoeffler" and whether he had been arrested by the FBI. According to the rumor, Hoeffler was a fund manager for the international stock fund within the Thrift Savings Plan.

The first searches we did of Hoeffler’s name resulted in links to websites reporting the rumor. When trying to access the sites with the "information," our computer started blinking warning messages about most of the sites containing a virus or other maladies likely to infect our computer system.

We responded to those readers who inquired that the rumor appeared to be a hoax as there was no reliable information available about "Samuel Hoeffler" and his relationship to the Thrift Savings Plan.

Since that time, the Thrift Savings Plan has issued a statement pointing out that the TSP funds are index funds and not managed by any one person. Here is the statement from the TSP:

The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) has become aware of an e-mail and Internet hoax purporting illegal activity on the part of an individual said to manage the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) I Fund. The TSP is actively investigating the origins of the bogus web site.

The individual named (Samuel Hoeffler) and his connection to the TSP investment funds are completely fictitious. Be assured that the TSP’s I Fund has not suffered from accounting irregularities and is not insolvent.

All of the TSP funds, with the exception of the Government Securities Investment Fund (G Fund) are passive investments. In other words, they are invested in index funds; they are not managed by an individual actively selecting securities in an effort to outperform the market. The investment objective of each fund is to achieve approximately the same return as the particular market index that it tracks. The I Fund, for example, is invested in a stock index fund that tracks the Morgan Stanley EAFE Index. The TSP’s C, S, I, and F Funds are managed by Barclays Global Investors, one of the largest and most respected investment managers in the world.

In other words, the losses in the International Stock Fund (I fund) of the TSP are due to the falling value of stocks within the index fund and are not the work of a scoundrel.