The Day In Kickbacks

Another day, another development in the pension fund kickback scandal. This time it’s a guilty plea from Julio Ramirez, who committed securities fraud by scheming with Hank Morris to secure investments from New York State Common Retirement Fund. At the time, he was working for placement agency Wetherly Capital.

Ramirez, you might recall, was in this space just three weeks ago – when we reported that he had left placement agent Park Hill Group, an affiliate of The Blackstone Group. Blackstone spokesman Peter Rose told me at the time – and reiterated yesterday – that Ramirez voluntarily gave notice at the beginning of January, and his last day was March 31. Ramirez did not mention anything about the pending investigation, although Blackstone subsequently did its own review (including a sweep of Ramirez’ emails) to make sure he hadn’t been double-dealing while with Park Hill. Rose says that Blackstone found no such evidence.

Kind of kicking myself for not publicly tying Ramirez to the kickback scandal in that original item, but I didn’t feel like I had enough to go on – particularly because he had told Blackstone and others that he was leaving to hang his own shingle. So let me now double-back and trust my instinct on a couple of things:

  1. Over the weekend, a source told me to expect formal charges to be filed against at least two more people, in relation to the kickback scandal. He didn’t provide names, but said one would be a placement agent (apparently Ramirez) and the other would be a hedge fund manager (in the mold of Barrett Wissman). Your move, Mr. Cuomo.
  2. Ramirez’ guilty plea was in relation to NYSCERF, but the majority of his historical activity was with California-based pensions. In other words, this is not a regional story.

Also worth noting that Ramirez’s guilty plea includes helping Aldus Equity get its deal with NYSCRF. A few years back, I wrote the following:

“Today’s news involves Aldus Equity Partners, a Dallas-based shop founded in 1998. Sources tell me that Aldus’ partners have effectively ousted firm founder Saul Meyer, and now are in the process of informing clients. I’m getting muddled tales as to the specific backroom politics, so will hold off until there is something more concrete.”

I had that info on very good authority (read: from within Aldus), so was stunned when Meyer somehow managed to stick around as the firm’s top gun.

Today, PE Insider picked up the moldy ball, reporting that Aldus only agreed to reinstate Meyer at the behest of Deutsche Bank, which was in the process of acquiring a 45% ownership stake in the firm. Seems that an Aldus with Meyer could call its own shots, but one without him would have its team integrated into the Deutsche superstructure. Not sure who at Deutsche made that call, but would sure love to know…