The State Worker

CalPERS new chief of investments returns after China stint

California’s public pension crisis is bad and getting worse

California's two major public pension systems are underfunded and are asking local governments to pay more. Critics want to reduce benefits, while others say policymakers should allow time for recent changes to take hold.
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California's two major public pension systems are underfunded and are asking local governments to pay more. Critics want to reduce benefits, while others say policymakers should allow time for recent changes to take hold.

A former CalPERS official who spent the past three years in Beijing as an executive in China’s foreign exchange office is returning to Sacramento to lead the California pension fund’s investment office.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System announced on Monday that Ben Meng would succeed Ted Eliopoulos as the fund’s chief investment officer.

The news was first reported last week by The Wall Street Journal before Meng had accepted the offer.

”We are pleased to have (Meng) back,” CalPERS Board of Administration member Henry Jones said Monday. “He has deep understanding of our investment operations. We look forward to introducing him personally to our members, employers (and) stakeholders in the future when he returns to the United States.”

Meng, 48, worked at CalPERS from 2008 to 2015, including a term as head of asset allocation. State salary records show he earned almost $500,000 in his last year at the fund.

He’ll be able to earn up to $1.77 million in salary and bonuses as CalPERS chief investment officer.

CalPERS, with $360 billion in assets, is the nation’s largest public pension fund. It’s considered underfunded because it has only about 71 percent of the assets it would need to pay all of the benefits it owes to public employees and retirees.

He has worked for Barclays Global Investors, Lehamn Brothers and Morgan Stanley.

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“Ben’s strong investment background makes him well-suited to lead our investment strategy,” CalPERS Chief Executive Officer Marcie Frost said in a news releases. “He understands the need to drive investment returns to help us achieve a fully funded system.”

In Beijing, Meng was the deputy chief investment officer for the State Administration of Foreign Exchange.

Eliopoulos announced earlier this year that he plans to relocate New York. He has worked for CalPERS since 2007 and worked as chief investment officer since 2014.

CalPERS, California Public Employees Retirement System, aims to build retirement and health security for state workers. Here's a quick look at the retirement system.

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