San Diego Pension Trustees React To Retainment of Controversial CIO


The San Diego County Employees Retirement System (SDCERS) voted 5-4 last week to retain its controversial CIO, Lee Partridge.

The vote was close, and nearly every trustee had something to say about the decision. From Bloomberg:

“All the sudden we found out we have $22 billion in exposure,” [trustee Dianne] Jacob said by telephone prior to the vote. “That should have never happened. The process is flawed. The hiring of Partridge in the beginning was flawed. Let’s get back to basics.”


“This is an exorbitant amount of taxpayer dollars being spent and is unprecedented in any other county in California,” [County Treasurer and trustee] McAllister said by e-mail before the vote. “I have strongly opposed the adoption of an outsourced government structure.”

McAllister went on, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune:

“The CEO, Brian White, has put SDCERA in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons,” said County Treasurer Dan McAllister, who serves on the pension board as part of his elected duties. “This is not the behavior we should expect from the CEO of one of the largest public pensions in the state.”

Those trustees were echoing the sentiment of city employees, many of whom had shown up to previous board meetings or written the trustees to express their insecurity with the pension fund’s investment strategy. From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

“You have a responsibility to represent hard-working San Diego County employees,” county employee Tracey Carter, a member of Service Employees International Union 221, told the board prior to the vote. “We have done our due diligence. We have separated headlines from facts. It is time to change direction with the management of the fund.”

But the majority of trustees voted not to fire Partridge. From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

“For those who continue the fear-mongering, shame on you,” said [trustee and board vice-chairman David] Myers.

More of Myers’ reaction from Bloomberg:

“Going forward with the contract is in the best interest of this organization and its members — it saves money,” David Myers, the board’s vice chairman, said at a Sept. 18 meeting. “The dysfunctionality of what is going on right now is, in my opinion, a breach of our responsibility to this organization.”

Salient Partners LP, the firm that employs Partridge, released this statement to Bloomberg:

“ [We] delivered $4.4 billion to SDCERA plan members at a lower cost and with less risk than 80 percent of similarly sized pension plans,” said Chris Moon Ashraf, a spokeswoman for the company at Jennifer Connelly Public Relations. “The average SDCERA plan beneficiary realized more than $111,000 in gains under Mr. Partridge’s stewardship for a total fee over five years of $414.”

The fund’s investment strategy was controversial because the CIO was allowed to use up to 500 percent leverage on certain parts of its portfolio, without seeking approval from the board or the fund’s director.

SDCERS returned just over 13 percent in 2014.

San Diego Fund To Consider Firing Risk-Keen CIO


The San Diego County Employees Retirement System (SDCERS) is by now notorious for its risky investment strategies, which include heavy use of leverage.

Pension360 has covered the pension fund’s board meetings this month, during which some trustees wondered aloud whether the fund should dial back risk.

Now, the board is considering another item: whether the fund’s chief investment officer should keep his job. Reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune:

The county pension board voted Thursday to formally consider firing their Texas investment consultant.

The decision on the future employment of Salient Partners of Houston was set for Oct. 2, one day after the last of the county’s in-house investment staff was scheduled to go to work for the investment firm as part of a years-long outsourcing push.

In the meantime, Chief Investment Officer Lee Partridge of Salient will no longer be permitted to risk up to five times the amount of San Diego County’s pension money invested under his “risk-parity” strategy.

The board considered yesterday the idea of allowing higher amounts of leverage in pension fund investments. But that idea was voted down by a measure of 5-2.

Now, the board has suspended its CIO’s ability to use any leverage at all until the board votes on the CIO’s future. That vote will be held in early October.


Photo by dktrpepr via Flickr CC

Which Pension Fund Is Best At Investing In Private Equity? The Results Are In


Reuters PE Hub recently surveyed 160 public pension funds across the country in an attempt to pinpoint the fund with the highest-performing private equity portfolio.

The results of the survey were released this month, and the fund with the best performance from private equity was the San Diego City Employees Retirement System (SDCERS). From KUSI News:

SDCERS’ private equity portfolio consists of 45 different funds, with commitments of $580 million. The survey noted 47 percent of SDCERS’ funds performed in the top 25 percent of all funds surveyed. The private equity program invests in all types of assets and strategies globally, including buyouts, special situations and venture capital funds.

“The success of SDCERS’ private equity program can be attributed to the thoughtful way in which the program was constructed, and the quality of the dialogue between staff and consultants,” SDCERS CEO Mark Hovey said. “I am proud of our investments team and the Board of Administration, who work tirelessly to secure a retirement future for more than 200,000 members through an effective investment strategy focused on delivering long-term results.”

SDCERS shouldn’t be confused with the San Diego County Employees Retirement Association, which gained notoriety this week when the Wall Street Journal reported on the fund’s heavy reliance on alternative investments.

SDCERS was 68.6 percent funded as of 2013.


San Diego Pension Fund Pays “Big” Price For Big Office Space



One of California’s largest city pension funds is not only paying a “big” sum for its huge, high-end office space—it’s also locked into a long lease.

An investigation by a ABC10 found that the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System is locked into a 10 year lease for the office space it rents, and the System will pay over $10 million in rent over that period. From ABC10:

The San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System manages a $7 billion fund. A review of office leases by Team 10 found SDCERS will spend $10.1 million renting office space at 401 West A Street in downtown San Diego. The lease is for 26,000 square feet over 10 years, and an SDCERS spokeswoman said 58 employees use the space — which breaks down to roughly 450 square feet per employee.

“I have to wonder why more than 20,000 square feet. Forget whether you own or lease it. Why that big a space?” real estate appraiser and San Diego State University lecturer Dana Kahn asked after reviewing the SDCERS lease.

Those numbers fall roughly in line with what SDCERS has reported publicly for years; according to its latest financial report, the System spent $998,000 on rent in 2013.

The investigation also looked into office space rented by the California Public Employees Retirement System.

CalPERS—the nation’s largest public fund—has eight offices around the state, although its staff is much larger than that of SDCERS.

CalPERS is a bit more secretive about its rental costs, as its financial reports don’t specifically disclose the cost of rent for its offices.

Its latest financial report does disclose that the System pays $3,789,000 for “facilities operations”, which may include rent as well as utility costs associated with its office spaces.

ABC10 managed to get a hold of SDCERS’ spokesperson over email, and she answered a few questions.

1. Why did SDCERS choose to rent office space?

SDCERS has been renting office space for many years. We’ve been in the current locating for the past seven, and then rented space in other downtown office building locations for many years before that.

2. Did SDCERS considering buying space?

No. The only investments in real estate done by SDCERS are as part of the fund’s real estate holdings in our investments portfolio.

3. How many employees work in the office?

There are 58 budgeted staff positions at SDCERS.

4. How much of SDCERS portfolio consists of real estate?

Real estate holdings in our investments portfolio account for 9.1 percent of the fund, or approximately $630 million.

5. Who negotiated the lease?

The original lease for SDCERS’ space at 401 West A Street was signed in April 2007. Signing for SDCERS were its then CEO and Board President. SDCERS was assisted in finding space by broker Irving Hughes. The first amendment to the current lease was signed in October 2013, again by its current CEO and Board President. SDCERS was assisted in negotiating the amendment by broker Hughes Marino.

Photo by Justin Brown via Flickr CC License