PIMCO Taps Neel Kashkari

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Neel Kashkari, a former Goldman Sachs banker who ran the government’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, has been tapped to head Pimco’s new investment initiatives.

His appointment underscores Bill Gross’ and Mohamed El-Erian’s push to deepen the firm’s products and services beyond fixed income, Pimco’s bread and butter, and into equities.

Gross and El-Erian, who share the title of co-chief investment officer, also hired Franklin Resource Inc’s Anne Gudefin and Charles Lahr to boost Pimco’s push into actively managing equities.

Kashkari will be based in the firm’s headquarters in Newport Beach, California. He will help direct the firm’s expansion into new investment initiatives, including its equities business.

Gudefin and Lahr, who are known for their shrewd “deep value” approach in stock selection, are joining Pimco as global equity portfolio managers. They were co-portfolio managers of the $15.6 billion Franklin Mutual Global Discovery Fund.

Pimco oversees more than $940 billion in assets, mostly in fixed income.

Kashkari will be a senior member of the firm’s executive office and work closely with Pimco’s portfolio management, business management and client-facing groups. His first day at Pimco is Dec. 14.

Asked about the potential for conflicts of interest of a former government executive and a private firm, Mark Porterfield, Pimco’s chief spokesman, told Reuters: “Mr. Kashkari is bound by a non-solicitation agreement with various parts of the U.S. government by which he and PIMCO intend to abide.” (Reporting by Jennifer Ablan, editing by Dan Grebler)