Thai pension fires investment chief

Thailand’s government pension fund is investigating Visit Tantisunthorn for alleged insider trading and reportedly violating some of its regulations.

Visit Tantisunthorn, the former secretary general of Thailand’s Government Pension Fund (GPF), has left the THB390 billion ($11 billion; €8 billion) pension, a source close to the matter confirmed. His resignation was rejected earlier this month and Tantisunthorn was fired instead amid allegations of misconduct, Sathit Limpongpan, chairman of the GPF, told the Bangkok Post.

Tantisunthorn oversaw the investment decisions of the THB390 billion ($11 billion; €8 billion) pension fund.

He is under investigation by the country’s Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission for alleged insider trading, an inquiry due to complete by the end of June, according to the source. The commission is also investigating alleged management irregularities for losses between THB18 billion and THB24 billion, incurred by GPF in 2007. The irregularities include a sub-committee created to manage part of the pension fund’s portfolio, according to news website Asian Investor

Limpongpan told the Bangkok Post that Tantisunthorn's resignation admitted to not abiding by some GPF regulations. This, plus the fact the resignation itself was found to be afoul of a GPF regulation requiring a resignation letter be submitted 30 days in advance, caused the GPF to reject the resignation, Limpongpan said.

Sujinda Sukhum, director of GPF’s legal affair office and secretary to the inquiry panel, told the Thai daily Tantisunthorn is unlikely to face punitive proceedings given he was a contract employee not subject to GPF’s employment laws or Thai labour law. He added the GPF has appointed a recruitment board to choose another secretary general.

The GPF's current allocation to private equity is unclear. The pension fund's allocation to alternative investments as of May 2009 is 3.5 percent, according to its website. But in May 2008, Tantisunthorn said in an interview that GPF had upped its allocation to alternatives from 8.5 percent to 13.5 percent – comprising 7 percent to private equity and infrastructure, and 6.5 percent to real estate. The GPF was hiring a consultant to advise it on the selection of private equity and real estate fund managers globally, he said at the time.

The GPF did not reply to requests for comment at press time.