The State Worker

Inflated-résumé claims prompt review of top CalPERS official

The headquarters of the California Public Employees' Retirement System in Sacramento is shown. The next chief investment officer at the nation’s largest public pension fund will have a shot to earn $1.77 million in a single year, about 50 percent more than the executive in that post today can collect in wages and bonuses.
The headquarters of the California Public Employees' Retirement System in Sacramento is shown. The next chief investment officer at the nation’s largest public pension fund will have a shot to earn $1.77 million in a single year, about 50 percent more than the executive in that post today can collect in wages and bonuses. Sacramento Bee file

The nation’s largest public pension fund is reviewing its decision to hire its chief financial officer following a report on a financial news blog that suggested he embellished details in his recent work history on his résumé, CalPERS said on Friday.

“We take these questions that have arisen seriously and are reviewing them,” CalPERS spokesman Wayne Davis said.

The review follows an April 11 analysis by the blog Naked Capitalism that challenged CalPERS Chief Financial Officer Charles Asubonten’s résumé. It asserted that he exaggerated his role at a South African mining company a decade ago and that he misrepresented his work experience after his contract with the mining company expired.

Susan Webber, the founder of a management consulting firm who frequently writes about CalPERS for Naked Capitalism, said that Asubonten’s qualifications did not meet CalPERS’ job requirements.

She tracked down a decision from a South African labor court in a dispute between Asubonten and his former employer to support her analysis.

“Asubonten falls dramatically short of CalPERS’ required ‘professional competencies.’ Not only has he not worked for ten years in a large pension fund or financial firm overseeing complex operations, he has no financial institutions experience whatsoever. Running what was at best a microscopically small private equity business does not qualify. Nor does having been the chief financial officer at two mining sites,” Webber wrote.

Asubonten couldn't immediately be reached for comment on Friday, but told the Los Angeles Times Monday that "nothing on my résumé is exaggerated; there is no discrepency."

CalPERS announced Asubonten’s appointment on Sept. 20, hailing his 20 years of experience of finance and private equity. "Charles' strong leadership capabilities and experience demonstrate his ability to manage CalPERS' complex financial operations that will benefit the fund over the long-term," CalPERS Chief Executive Marcie Frost said at the time.

Board President Priya Mathur said Frost is “handling this matter with all due diligence and sensitivity. What I have seen of Charles' performance is that he has been a very effective CFO since joining CalPERS."

CalPERS has had a difficult time filling the position. CalPERS in June announced Richard Gillihan, the director of the state human resources department and a CalPERS board member, would take the post. He had to retract his acceptance because of potential conflicts of interest moving from the CalPERS board of administration to a staff position.

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