Reporting from Sacramento — —
The board of the state's biggest public employee pension fund might take one of its own members to task Wednesday for repeatedly failing to file required financial disclosure reports on time.
At a special meeting of the California Public Employees' Retirement System board, fund President Rob Feckner will explain the recommendations on disciplinary action the 13-member board could take against Priya Mathur.
Last week the state's political watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission, levied a $4,000 fine against Mathur, a two-term elected board member, for failing to file her legally required 2008 financial disclosure statement on time.
A month earlier, the FPPC fined Mathur $3,000 for not filing a timely 2007 report. Four years ago, she paid $6,000 in fines for similar violations of the California Political Reform Act stemming from her initial election to the board in 2003.
The fines against Mathur, a financial analyst for the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, come at a sensitive time for CalPERS.
The $206-billion government retirement fund, the largest in the nation, has been swept up in a nationwide scandal involving sometimes huge commissions paid to political intermediaries by private investment managers.
The intermediaries, known as placement agents, have helped private equity and real estate investment funds win billions of dollars in CalPERS business.
Two weeks ago, California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown filed a lawsuit alleging fraud against one such intermediary, former CalPERS board member Alfred R. Villalobos. The complaint, which alleged the use of gifts and pressure to influence CalPERS board and staff investment decisions, also named as a defendant Federico Buenrostro Jr., a former CalPERS chief executive.
Discipline could include a verbal reprimand, a suspension from engaging in board activities, loss of a chairmanship or a ban on travel and attending conferences on board business, Feckner said.
He declined to indicate whether he had a preferred action in mind. "I'm not going to predispose the board by speaking about it," he said.
He noted that Mathur's belatedly filed statements for 2007 and 2008 said that she had no financial interests that could represent potential conflicts of interest. Her 2009 statement, which was filed before the March 3, 2010 deadline, also said that she had "no reportable" interests.
Not filing the reports and failing to respond to FPPC inquiries were "an error in judgment," Feckner said.
"There's a big difference in an error when you're misleading somebody and when you're making a mistake in judgment," he said.
Mathur said in a statement: "I am deeply sorry for the embarrassment I have caused CalPERS, an organization I hold dear. I go out of my way to avoid accepting any gift that I would have to report, but that does not excuse me from the obligation to file the Form 700 every year. I will not fail to file this important report in the future and will accept any action by the CalPERS board. I have a profound respect for the FPPC and the public trust it upholds and will comply with its finding, paying the fine within the next few weeks."
The debate over possible disciplinary action for Mathur would be the first under a 5-month-old CalPERS policy giving the board president the power to censure members for unethical activities.