Private equity and hedge fund firms invested pension cash for retired Ohio teachers. Here’s what happened.

For more than 30 years, Dean Dennis and his wife, Patty, worked in the Cincinnati school system, paying into their pensions so they wouldn't have to worry about retirement. "We managed our money well. We had our plans for our future," Dennis said.

But the Dennis family's plans and those of thousands of other former educators and school system workers in Ohio have been upended. In 2017, the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, or STRS, pension plan eliminated an annual cost-of-living increase. Since then, recipients have had no increase in payments while prices have risen by 8 percent.

Dennis sued the pension plan after the cost-of-living adjustment was eliminated, a case that is pending in federal court. Now, he says, he is concerned about the safety of the $88 billion fund after an analysis concluded that its overseers are overstating performance through a misleading benchmark and doling out undisclosed fees to Wall Street private equity and hedge fund firms...