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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Earlier this month, Ben Meng, chief investment officer of the California Public Employees' Pension System (CalPERS) resigned from the fund after filing incomplete disclosures and failing to comply with conflict-of-interest rules.

What's new: At least one CalPERS board member, Margaret Brown, is publicly calling for a temporarily suspension of any new private equity investments until the conclusion of an investigation into Meng's disclosures. She tells Axios the expected time frame would be 30 to 90 days.

  • No other CalPERS board member or system executive is publicly supporting Brown's suspension proposal.
  • This feels like a mistake. Not because I necessarily think Meng is guilty of much more than sloppiness, but because it's impossible to be sure without the concluded investigation.
  • CalPERS has deep enough pockets that it could ask fund managers to give it an extra couple months to consider limited partner commitments, without causing it to miss out on opportunities.

The backstory: Meng earlier this month left the California Public Employees' Pension System (CalPERS), where he helped oversee over $400 billion in assets under management.

  • It was officially a resignation, but came after financial blogger Susan Weber discovered that Meng had filed incomplete (i.e., false) financial disclosure forms with CalPERS. In other words, his resignation had big "You can't fire me, I quit" vibe.
  • Weber also reported that Meng had personal investments in several private equity firms with which CalPERS does business, without finding evidence that he had recused himself from decisions involving those firms.

Between the lines: These are unforgivable sins for a retirement system fiduciary, although it's a stretch to reasonably argue Meng was trying to line his pockets.

  • CalPERS had decades-long relationships with the private equity firms in question, long predating Meng's arrival.
  • Meng had made efforts to increase CalPERS' private equity exposure, but by expanding into direct investing, not increasing the amount of investment in third-party funds.

The bottom line: CalPERS had been through some massive private equity scandals before, which perhaps is why it's treating this situation like a minor inconvenience. But those past experiences should instead serve as a reminder to board and staff that they often don't know what they don't know.

Go deeper

Updated 56 mins ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.

The new grifters: outrage profiteers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As Republicans lost the Senate and narrowly missed retaking the House, millions of dollars in grassroots donations were diverted to a handful of 2020 congressional campaigns challenging high-profile Democrats that, realistically, were never going to succeed.

Why it matters: Call it the outrage-industrial complex. Slick fundraising consultants market candidates contesting some of their party’s most reviled opponents. Well-meaning donors pour money into dead-end campaigns instead of competitive contests. The only winner is the consultants.