At CalPERS: One Pleads the 5th, One Quits

CalPERS announced that Kurato Shimada resigned yesterday to focus on “personal matters.”

“It’s with sadness that I accepted Kurato Shimada’s resignation from our Board today,” said Rob Feckner, CalPERS Board President. “We appreciate his desire to focus on personal matters and wish him well.” CalPERS will be scheduling a special election to fill his vacant seat. Press Release, August 31, 2010.

Shimada occupied one of two “at-large” seats on the CalPERS Board. Earlier in the day, the Sacramento Bee reported focused on former Board member Charles Valdes, who for many years, occupied the other at-large seat. From that Bee report:

In court papers, the state introduced written testimony from Buenrostro’s ex-wife Melissa Nevis, who said Villalobos once gave $500 in casino chips to Valdes and either of two other men: CalPERS board member Kurato Shimada and former board member Robert Carlson…

Questioned by a state lawyer, former board member Charles Valdes invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 126 times in closed-door testimony this month. Former CalPERS board member refuses to answer questions (SacBee, 8/31/10)

Today, the Bee provided further clarification, stating that “Shimada hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing in the pension fund’s bribery scandal.” CalPERS board member with ties to Villalobos resigns, SacBee, 9/1/10.

Shimada served two separate stints on the board. The first ended in 1999, and a year later he went to work for Villalobos. The two pitched an investment deal to CalPERS in 2000 on behalf of Los Angeles real estate firm CIM Group. CalPERS eventually invested $400 million with CIM, which paid Villalobos’ firm a $9.6 million fee. Called to testify in July in Villalobos’ bankruptcy case, Shimada said he earned more than $40,000 on the deal. Shimada rejoined the CalPERS board in 2002. He served a total of 21 years.

And there’s this from the LATimes (Villalobos bankruptcy judge is skeptical that state’s suit won’t get in the way, 9/1/10)

On Tuesday, the state Legislature passed a bill to regulate placement agents and their fees for directing public pension money to investment firms. The investment industry at first strongly opposed the bill but later withdrew its objections.

That bill, AB 1743 (Hernandez), will require placement agents with respect to public retirement systems to register as lobbyists.  This would have many disclosure and economic consequences for placement agents and their employers.  One of these consequences will be a ban on contingent compensation. (Placement Agent Bill Passes,

CalPERS earlier enacted regulations regarding placement agents but they weren’t adopted according to the legal requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. Southern California attorney, Keith Bishop, filed for a determination with the Office of Administrative Law to invalidate the underground regulations.

I also filed in support of that petition. However, OAL took the position that CalPERS’ certification of non-enforcement of the May guidelines deprived them of any ability to take action, since they can only rule on underground regulations that an agency intends to enforce. See past determinations (bottom of page) made by OAL at my request.  At least this time CalPERS appears to be following up their underground regulations with real regulations.

I’ve probably run for the Board at CalPERS more than anyone else who never got elected. Each time it was very frustrating trying to get the attention of the press. They always seem ready to jump on any scandal at CalPERS but none of them have ever vetted or endorsed candidates prior to the election. Here’s something I wrote for a guest commentary in the Sacramento News & Review (Don’t overlook CalPERS election, 9/14/06):

When I asked the Sacramento Bee to consider making an endorsement, it told me the fall elections would “demand our full attention during the political season.” The paper only had time to focus on elections of importance to its readers.

When I’ve given talks in Shanghai or London about corporate governance, no one questions the importance of CalPERS. Yet, neither our local nor our national press seem to think CalPERS elections are important enough to cover. Perhaps that’s one reason why the number of candidates for office has dwindled. Years ago, almost one hundred candidates filed in a single year. This year, three seats were up for election. Only one seat is contested. Apathy is rampant, even as the press seems to carry more and more stories of problems.

CalPERS members need to give much more thought to how they vote in their elections. The press should also step up to the plate. Instead of sniping at CalPERS at every turn, they should live up to their responsibilities by not only investigating and endorsing candidates before elections but doing a much better job of covering Board activities throughout the year.

For the second year in a row, I’m co-sponsoring an opportunity for CalPERS members, concerned taxpayers and the press to meet and question Board candidates on the issues before they are voted into office. See 2010 Board Member Election & Candidate Forum.

I’m delighted to report that all candidates, including those with no opponents, have agreed to attend. I’m hoping it will stimulate more interest in and coverage of the election. I’m also hoping corporate directors will participate in similar forums when faced with proxy contests or proxy access director nominee challengers. Shouldn’t we be able to question potential directors before voting?

Given the continuing feeling of powerlessness, it seems to be harder for voters and investors to stand up and say “yes, we can!” However, if we don’t, our situation may only get worse.

, , , , , ,


  1. Tweets that mention » At CalPERS: One Pleads the 5th, One Quits -- - 09/01/2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by irbloggers, James McRitchie. James McRitchie said: At CalPERS: One Pleads the 5th, One Quits — — When will their elections be taken seriously? […]

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes