CalPERS Aims to Name New PE Chief

The giant California Public Employees’ Retirement System tentatively plans to name a new head of private equity on Tuesday, May 31st, more than a year after it put its last private equity chief on administrative leave, according to a spokesman who said CalPERS would have no further comment until then.

Leon Shahinian, the former PE chief at CalPERS, was put on administrative leave after being identified in a pay-to-play lawsuit brought by former state attorney general (and now governor) Jerry Brown. Shahinian formally resigned from the $231 billion pension in Aug. 2010.

The pension’s $32 billion alternatives portfolio has been managed by chief investment officer Joe Dear during the nine-month search following Shahinian’s departure.

The pay-to-play scandal is still very much in the public eye. Just last week, California’s Fair Political Practices Commission announced that 49 current and former CalPERS staffers face possible fines for violating state rules on accepting gifts. The fines would range from a warning up to $5,000 per incident.

Gifts and luxury travel from prominent placement agents were at the center of the pay-to-play scandal that allegedly involved Shahinian and the pension’s former chief executive, Federico Buenrostro.

The list of those facing possible fines includes Dear, as well as Joncarlo Mark and Mike Dutton, members of CalPERS’s private equity team, both of whom recently resigned. Buenrostro was also named. Notably, Leon Shahinian was not on the list of 49 people facing possible fines.