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Former CalPERS Lawyer Named to Panel

October 26, 2002|Kathy M. Kristof | Times Staff Writer

Kayla J. Gillan's appointment to the new national accounting oversight board is being welcomed by corporate governance activists who say she will be an impassioned voice for the interests of individual investors.

Gillan, former chief counsel at the California Public Employees' Retirement System, was named Friday to the five-member Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. The panel was created this year to crack down on an accounting industry at the center of recent corporate scandals. "She will be the conscience of that organization," said Nell Minow, editor of the Corporate Library, a corporate watchdog Web site, and author of several books on corporate governance.

Gillan's track record as an investor advocate, burnished during her tenure at CalPERS, will be especially important because the Securities and Exchange Commission, with the backing of Chairman Harvey L. Pitt, opted to select a non-accountant to head the oversight board.

"She is someone you can depend on to be fair and look out for the public interest," said Phil Angelides, California state treasurer. "Particularly in light of Pitt's actions," he added, "Gillan's appointment becomes all the more important."

While Gillan didn't give specifics about what her agenda would be as a member of the board, she said Friday that she would work hard to establish the panel's independence and maintain the integrity of corporate financial statements and the securities markets.

"I suspect that we all come with different perspectives, but have the shared vision of restoring confidence and protecting the investing public," she said.

At 43, Gillan is something of a pioneer in the movement to reform the way America's companies are run.

A graduate of Cal State Sacramento, she completed law school at UC Davis and less than two years later went to work at CalPERS -- where she remained until she left in July to become vice president of Washington-based Independent Fiduciary Services.

At the time of her arrival, CalPERS, which manages $135 billion in pension assets, was distressed by the emergence of "greenmail," a tactic used by entrenched managements to thwart legitimate corporate buyouts. The CalPERS board wanted to be more involved as a shareholder and needed a staff attorney to take on the project.

"I was the junior person on the staff, and no one else volunteered, so I raised my hand and said, 'Pick me! Pick me!' " said Gillan, who lives in Elk Grove, Calif.

She spent the next 16 years creating standards of conduct for corporate boards and negotiating with managers when CalPERS believed that a company was breaking the rules.

"She is very fair and very calm, which will be important in Washington," said Richard H. Koppes, partner with Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue in Sacramento and Gillan's former boss.

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