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Head of L.A.'s largest city pension agency resigns

Eric Holoman is the mayor's sixth pension appointee to quit in six months. He cites a new state law limiting the private financial work of publicly appointed pension board members.

October 19, 2009|David Zahniser

The president of Los Angeles' largest employee retirement system has resigned, becoming the sixth pension appointee of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to quit over the last six months.

Eric Holoman stepped down last week from the Los Angeles City Employees' Retirement System board after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law placing new limits on private financial work performed by publicly appointed pension board members.

Holoman is president of Magic Johnson Enterprises.

Assemblyman Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), who wrote the new law, has described it as a legislative response to investigations of alleged pay-to-play activities in New York state's pension fund. The law requires pension agencies to disclose work performed by "placement agents" -- middlemen who pitch investment business for a fee.

The law also bars pension board members throughout the state from selling, directly or indirectly, investment products to any other public retirement system in the state.

In an e-mail, Holoman told the mayor that the bill "would impair my ability to act as an asset manager in my private equity and real estate professions."

Holoman is only the latest mayoral pension appointee to step aside. In April, Kelly Candaele left the same pension board after The Times reported that he had violated a law prohibiting city commissioners from raising money for city political candidates.

One week later, Commissioners Sean Harrigan and Elliott Broidy resigned from the Fire and Police Pensions Board after receiving an inquiry letter from the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC had asked both men to disclose their contacts with three firms that have figured prominently in the New York kickback scandal.

Broidy and Harrigan said they had done nothing wrong and described the inquiry as a distraction for the board. Since then, two other Villaraigosa appointees have stepped down, citing time constraints.

Holoman did not respond to a request for comment from The Times.

Linda Aparicio, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles city pension agency, said Holoman's resignation was one of many moments where he "led by example."

"This is another example of him being very cautionary and doing what's best for our system," she said.

Holoman spent the last four years running the board of the Los Angeles City Employees' Retirement System, which suffered losses of nearly 20% in the last fiscal year in large part because of the national financial downturn.

At the same time, he was a registered investment advisor to Magic Johnson Enterprises, forming partnerships with companies such as Yucaipa Cos., which was founded by billionaire Ron Burkle.

Two months ago, Holoman cast the deciding vote for a controversial plan to give 2,400 city employees early retirement.

In making the 5-4 decision, Holoman and others in the majority ignored the recommendation of his agency's general manager and sided with labor leaders, who called for the cost of the program to be spread over 15 years instead of a shorter period. That vote kept the early retirement program alive and allowed it to reach the City Council for a vote.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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