Charles Asubonten was in a corner by the time CalPERS dismissed him from the high-paying job he’d just started as the chief financial officer for the nation’s largest public pension fund.
He’d already been exposed for exaggerating career accomplishments in his application by a CalPERS critic with a blog.
Then CalPERS conducted its own investigation. It found that Asubonten could not provide records to show that the company where he said he worked as managing director even existed.
He also could not demonstrate that he earned a monthly salary of $23,750 prior to joining CalPERS, which he claimed on his application.
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“The false, incomplete, incorrect and misleading information you provided to CalPERS both before and after your hire warrants your rejection,” the CalPERS report on Asubonten read.
Still, Asubonten had one last opportunity to hold on to his job. He took it, even though it guaranteed that CalPERS’ investigation into his application would become public.
His last-ditch appeal to the State Personnel Board reiterated his contention that he accurately described his work experience, and that CalPERS’ own executives failed to ask him during interviews about the questionable period of his career that drew the attention of Naked Capitalism blogger Susan Webber.
Their failure to question him, Asubonten’s attorney wrote, mattered because it showed that Asubonten did not attempt to deceive CalPERS Chief Executive Marcie Frost and Chief Counsel Matt Jacobs when they interviewed him in August 2017.
“This report is devoid of any evidence showing that (Asubonten) misrepresented his employment history to the very persons who hired him during the interview process,” his appeal says.
Asubonten chose to withdraw his appeal before an administrative law judge heard his case, but it was too late if he wanted to keep a lid on CalPERS’ findings. Contesting a disciplinary action to the board automatically makes a report releasable under the California Public Records Act.
Webber didn’t miss the chance to get the document. She published it in a piece that faulted Frost for missing red flags in Asubonten’s presentation.
CalPERS dismissed Asubonten on May 16. The 25-page CalPERS investigation making the case for his dismissal reported that he made vague statements in interviews.
For instance, he was asked how income he earned in 2007 related to wages he claimed he earned a decade later.
He said, “This is the biggest problem. And this is why I have said time and again, people who are in business with private equity do things different. Not illegal, but different things.”
Before Webber’s report, Asubonten had been developing a good reputation at CalPERS. Frost defended him when Webber first raised questions about him. So did CalPERS Board of Administration President Priya Mathur.
CalPERS is on the market for a new chief financial officer, and a new chief investment officer.