Former Calpers Chief Indicted Over Alleged Fraud

The New York Times on March 18, 2013 released the following:

“BY PETER LATTMAN

As head of the country’s largest pension fund, Federico R. Buenrostro wielded vast influence in the money management world.

From 2002 to 2008, Mr. Buenrostro served as chief executive of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or Calpers, which allocates more than $200 billion to investment firms across the globe.

Federal prosecutors say that Mr. Buenrostro abused that position. In an indictment filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco on Monday, the United States attorney charged Mr. Buenrostro and his friend, Alfred J. Villalobos, with defrauding the private equity firm Apollo Global Management.

The corruption charges against Mr. Buenrostro and Mr. Villalobos are connected to a nationwide pay-to-play scandal that erupted several years ago. Regulators from numerous states, including California and New Mexico, have cracked down on widespread influence peddling in how their state pension funds were invested.

The scandals focused on the role of middlemen, or placement agents, who charged lucrative fees to help money managers win business from state pension funds. In some cases, placement agents proved to be unlicensed fixers who received illegal kickbacks from pension officials. A number of pension officials and middlemen have served prison time, including Alan G. Hevesi, the former head of New York’s state pension fund.

The government claims that Mr. Buenrostro and Mr. Villalobos invented a crude scheme that tricked Apollo, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, into paying Mr. Villalobos at least $14 million in fees for his help in securing an investment from Calpers.

“We are extremely pleased that law enforcement authorities are moving to hold individuals accountable for activities which violate the public trust,” Rob Feckner, the board president of Calpers, said in a statement.

A lawyer for Mr. Buenrostro, William H. Kimball, declined to comment. Mr. Villalobos, who filed for personal bankruptcy in 2010, could not be reached for comment.

In the insular world of private equity, the charges struck many executives as unusual given Apollo and Calpers deep and lucrative ties. The California fund has invested at least $3 billion with Apollo, including a 2007 transaction in which it paid $600 million for a 9 percent stake in the firm.

For years, Apollo had retained Mr. Villalobos — a former Calpers board member — as a placement agent, agreeing to pay him for his help in securing investments from state pensions. Apollo paid at least $48 million in fees to Mr. Villalobos for his help in arranging for Calpers and other pensions to invest in its firm.

But to comply with securities laws and avoid perceived conflicts of interest, Apollo asked that Mr. Villalobos disclose to Calpers that he would receive payments related to the pension fund’s investments.

Prosecutors said that Mr. Buenrostro, 64, and Mr. Villalobos, 69, worked together, and fabricated letters from Calpers that purportedly signed off on the payments from Apollo to Mr. Villalobos.

“The allegations in the indictment unsealed today by the United States Department of Justice, if true, are troubling,” Charles V. Zehren, an Apollo spokesman, said Monday. “Apollo has always followed best practices in handling its placement agent relationships, and was not aware of any misconduct engaged in by Mr. Villalobos during the time that he worked with Apollo.”

The charges come after a civil lawsuit brought last year against Mr. Buenrostro and Mr. Villalobos by the Securities and Exchange Commission. And in 2011, a Calpers internal investigation concluded that Mr. Villalobos had turned Mr. Buenrostro into “a puppet” who directed Calpers investments to his clients. The firm’s report said that Mr. Villalobos lavished bribes on Mr. Buenrostro, including trips on private jets and gambling junkets at Nevada casinos.

When Mr. Buenrostro left Calpers in 2008, he took a job working with Mr. Villalobos as a placement agent.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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