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CalPERS board member runs afoul of watchdog agency

For failing to file a financial disclosure report, Priya Mathur is accused by the California Fair Political Practices Commission of violating an ethics law. She agrees to submit paperwork immediately.

January 06, 2010|By Marc Lifsher

Reporting from Sacramento — California's political watchdog agency announced it has found "probable cause" to accuse a two-term board member at the California Public Employees' Retirement System of violating the state's Political Reform Act.

Priya Mathur, the chairwoman of CalPERS' health benefits committee and vice-chairwoman of the investment committee, allegedly failed to file a statement of economic interests for 2007, the California Fair Political Practices Commission said Tuesday.

The commission also has opened a second case involving Mathur's alleged failure to file a similar report for 2008, said Executive Director Roman Porter.

In a statement released by CalPERS, Mathur, a financial analyst at the Bay Area Rapid Transit District in San Francisco, apologized for failing to file the two reports and vowed to submit the paperwork immediately. "I have nothing to report for either 2007 or 2008," she said.

In her statements filed for 2006 and 2005, Mathur said she had "no reportable interests."

Mathur was elected in 2002 to a first term on the CalPERS board as the representative of local government employees. She was elected to another four-year term in 2006.

Disclosure statements listing all sources of income, investment holdings and gifts received are required to be submitted annually by elected and appointed state officials as well as by top managers at government agencies and commissions.

Failure to file a report can result in the commission ordering payment of a fine of up to $5,000 per violation.

"The disclosure requirements in the statement of economic interests are one of the basic tenets of the Political Reform Act," Porter said, referring to California's landmark law approved by voters in 1974. "Failure to file denies the public of the opportunity to determine where a potential conflict of interest may lie."

The accusation against Mathur is not her first run-in with the Fair Political Practices Commission. It fined her $6,000 in 2003, her first year on the CalPERS board, for failing to submit a campaign finance statement and an annual statement of economic interests in a timely manner.

Mathur is the second of CalPERS' 13 board members to have problems with the Fair Political Practices Commission in recent months. Last month the commission fined longtime board member Charles Valdes $12,500 for receiving five campaign contributions in excess of state limits. The term of Valdes, a retired attorney at the California Department of Transportation, recently expired.

The actions against Mathur and Valdes are the latest in a series of allegations of ethical lapses at the $200-billion CalPERS.

The agency has launched an internal inquiry into the activities of so-called placement agents, who earn large commissions for helping outside investment managers gain access to CalPERS' portfolio. One such agent, former CalPERS board member Alfred Villalobos, has received more than $70 million in fees from private equity funds for helping them win business from CalPERS.

Villalobos and other placement agents are the targets of law enforcement probes by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown.

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