Open records group posts CalPERS data

A California public-disclosure advocacy group is highlighting fees paid to private equity firms that it describes as politically connected to the public pension.

The California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC), a public-disclosure advocacy group, has posted a list of fees paid to and distributions from private equity and hedge funds to which the California Public Employees’ Retirement System has made capital commitments.

The data disclosure is part of a lawsuit settlement between CalPERS and the CFAC, which had sued to gain access to information about the fees and profits associated with each private equity fund in the CalPERS portfolio.

CalPERS refused to provide details of the terms of each partnership, but has agreed to provide an extensive spreadsheet to CFAC listing each partnership next to associated fee amounts. A separate spreadsheet lists “profits” from each partnership in given years.

The fee spreadsheet includes information from 2001, 2002 and 2003. The profits spreadsheet provides information from the years 1999 through 2003.

In a press release, CFAC highlighted fees paid to fund managers alleged to have made campaign contributions to California state treasurer Phil Angelides. It noted that Yucaipa Companies, led by Ron Burkle, manages CalPERS capital in three funds that together received $8.7 million in fees in 2003. The press release notes that “[t]wo of the three Yucaipa funds have negative rates or return” and that Burkle “has made political campaign contributions” to Angelides.

Also highlighted by CFAC are New Mountain Partners and Reliant Equity Partners, which received $1.4 million and $1.1 million in fees from CalPERS in 2003, respectively. The press release cites “press reports” that the managing partners of both firms are politically connected to CalPERS senior management.

The biggest recipient of fees from CalPERS in 2003 was Lombard/Pacific Partners, which received $8.1 million. The partnership that sent the largest distribution to the pension in 2003 was Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe VII, which is listed as providing a $42,505,601 gain to CalPERS.

The CFAC noted in its release that it made CalPERS executives sign a “sworn declaration” that it does not keep track of “profits that venture capital firms have paid themselves from profits attributable to CalPERS’ profits” – an apparent reference to an earlier request that CalPERS provide a spreadsheet tracking carried interest attributable to each partnership. A recent memo sent to its general partners by CalPERS alternative investment staff said that CFAC had requested the “dollar amounts of carried interest attributable” to each fund, but that the pension responded that it does not track that information, and that in any case “the information is exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act.”