CalPERS promotes two in alternative investments

The California Public Employees Retirement System has made Leon Shahinian a senior principal investment officer and Joncarlo Mark a portfolio manager.

The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) has promoted two members of its alternative investment team. Leon Shahinian becomes senior principal investment officer and Joncarlo Mark takes up a portfolio manager role.

Prior to these appointments, both spent several years working their way across a number of the group’s divisions including alternative investments, the legal office, public affairs, human resources and fiscal departments. They will report to Richard Hayes, the head of CalPERS’ alternative investment division.

The promotions come at an interesting time for CalPERS, which has grown a reputation for employing good investment executives and rewarding them handsomely. However at the end of November 2001, the group’s chief investment officer Daniel Szente resigned over an ongoing legal battle launched by the State Controller, Kathleen Connell, who claimed CalPERS’ practice of paying its staff more than other state employees was in concflict with California law. Connell had sued the pension in February for trying to circumvent state salary regulations by issuing its own payroll checks

Szente at the time of his departure described Connell’s intervention as an effort to undo investment portfolio manager compensation, saying that the environment that the litigation created gave him concerns about the effect on the pension’s investment operations.

CalPERS manages pension and health benefits for more than 1.2m California public employees, retirees, and their families. Its assets total $143.7bn.

The alternative investment team specialises in private equity investments, and currently has more than $14bn committed to international investments. The group is among the world’s most influential investors in private equity limited partnerships, and made headlines earlier this year when it spent a total of $235m buying stakes The Carlyle Group and Texas Pacific Group’s venture capital firm TPG Ventures.