Pensions

SEC Investigating Calif. Public Pension Fund Purchases

Allegations of possible insider trading

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Federal investigators are looking into allegations that CalPERS violated insider trading laws this year when it purchased $26.6 million in restricted stock and then decided it didn't need to reverse the trades when they were discovered.

Two sources with knowledge of the Securities and Exchange Commission's inquiry say on condition of anonymity that it involves stock purchases that the nation's largest public pension fund made in March, including nearly $24 million in global financial firm JPMorgan Chase & Co. and almost $2.7 million in Access Midstream Partners LP, an Oklahoma-based energy company.

According to an internal memo and a fired employee's challenge of her termination by CalPERS, some staff at the fund contend that the purchases – and a subsequent decision not to rescind them – calls their managers' qualifications and judgment into question.

"We wanted to reverse (the trades)," said Ted Nishio, a retiree who worked in CalPERS' Division of Enterprise Compliance who said he was fired after he told his boss that the fund should quickly act. "But the higher ups said, 'Let it be.' "