By Dan Primack
March 15, 2011

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) may be zeroing in on a candidate to oversee its $22 billion alternative asset investment program.

The position has been empty since last August, when Leon Shahinian stepped down after being named — albeit not charged — in a kickback-related fraud lawsuit. The situation reached critical last month, when two of Shahinian’s three deputies resigned (see here and here).

At the time, a CalPERS spokesman said that the system hoped to have a new boss hired “in the next month.” In a follow-up conversation, CalPERs chief investment officer Joe Dear sounded confident that Shahinian’s replacement would be met with widespread approval. “Judge me on who we hire,” he said.

Sort of a fair point from Dear — some of the defections are troubling, even if he hires Warren Buffett — even if it’s now been more than a month. Particularly if he manages to hire Real Desrochers, who spent 10 years managing private equity for the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) before retiring in 2009.

Multiple sources tell me that CalPERS and Desrochers have discussed the job, although no word yet on if a formal offer has been made. If the two sides do come to an agreement,┬áDesrochers would lend an immediate air of credibility. He was known at CalSTRS for eschewing the types of “political” deals that have bedeviled CalPERS (i.e., investments pushed by board members on behalf of friends or policy goals). Not exactly clear what Desrochers would get out of it, unless he’s simply itching to get back into the game.

CalPERS declined comment.

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