6 months and counting… Still no alt investment boss at CalPERS

February 8, 2011, 8:54 PM UTC

Not that I’m trying to rush them or anything, but…

Isn’t it about time that CalPERS hires a new senior investment officer for alternative investments? Former alternatives chief Leon Shahinian was put on administrative leave more than eight months ago, after being named (albeit not charged) in a kickback-related fraud lawsuit. He formally stepped down last August, but the position remains unfilled.

The obvious hire would be existing CalPERS staffer Joncarlo Mark, but it seems that PR-conscious CalPERS boss Joe Dear has been scared off by an overblown travel expense scandal last summer. Sources tell me that Dear did ask Mike Dutton, one of Mark’s colleagues on the alternatives team, if he’d have interest in being considered, but Dutton demurred. Dear also has reached out to a former colleague at the Washington State Investment Board, but again got a negative response.

There also is a search firm involved, and word is that most of the outsiders it’s contacting are not from the pension fund world.

Alternative investments represent 14% of CalPERS’ $218 billion investment portfolio, and the system also has a portfolio of mega-buyout stakes on the secondary market. Moreover, it soon must make decisions on new fund offerings from firms like KKR. In other words, it would serve CalPERS — and its pensioners — well to be filly-staffed.

UPDATE A CalPERS spokesman emailed to say: “We are aggressively pushing ahead with this search and conducting interviews looking for the best candidate for this critical position.”