Inside the CalPERS Sausage Factory
I’ve posted some court documents relating to a bribery investigation that involves some big names in the private equity world:
- CalPERS, the giant California pension;
- Leon Black’s Apollo Group
- Christopher Bower’s Pacific Corporate Group in La Jolla
- Gerry Parsky’s Aurora Capital Group.
Some background: California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office in May sued former CalPERS CEO Federico Buenrostro Jr and placement agent and former Calpers board member Alfred Villalobos with fraudulent broker-dealer activities involving $4.8 billion in investments at the fund. (Read the lawsuit here.)
According to the lawsuit, Villalobos earned $47 million in commissions from clients including Black’s Apollo Management and Parsky’s Aurora Capital through corrupt relationships with individuals including CalPERS senior investment official Leon Shahinian, who recently left the pension:
When Villalobos was trying to persuade CalPERS to purchase a 10 percent equity interest in Apollo Global Management for $700 million in 2007 (as alleged in paragraphs 36-37 above), Shahinian accepted Villalobos’ invitation to travel by private jet to New York City to attend a fund-raising event on the evening of May 14, 2007 hosted by the Museum of Modern Art in honor of Leon Black (the “MOMA Event”), the founder and controlling shareholder of Apollo Global Management.
The trip include a private jet trip flight, a stay at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and limousine service. Total cost: more than $63,000.
Villalobos’ firm ARVCO billed Apollo for the trip. I’ve posted the bill here.
One month later, at a closed door hearing of the CalPERS investment board, Shahanian recommended the board invest in Black’s fund.
Also at the meeting, Pacific Corporate Group’s Chris Bower admits at the meeting that he had a business relationship with Villalobos, but CalPERS general counsel Peter Mixon said the relationship didn’t pose a conflict of interest because PCG didn’t stand to benefit from the pension’s investment in Apollo.
Here is a transcript of the hearing:
CalPERS Closed Investment Hearing June 18, 2007
Finally, Leon Shahinian’s deposition, in which he denies being bribed, is here.
Shahinian said that sometime in 2006 he told Leon Black that he would like to have a “more direct” relationship with Apollo, meaning that if Apollo had investment opportunities they should show them to CalPERS directly.
Q. After you had this conversation with Leon Black, were you discussing with him a potential opportunity for CalPERS to invest in Apollo regarding a distressed market debt opportunity?
Q. And did you — were you hoping during that conversation, in exploring that investment opportunity, to deal directly with Apollo without need for a placement agent?
A. I had approached Apollo on the idea of CalPERS investing a substantial amount of money in a distressed debt type fund. And after I had that initial conversation with Leon Black expressing CalPERS’ interest to invest in a fund like that, I learned Apollo hired Arvco to be the placement agent.
Q. Did that surprise you?
A. It did.
A: I guess I didn’t understand why Apollo felt like they needed to hire a placement agent on something where CalPERS had explicitly indicated an interest in investing in.