CalPERS CEO resigns, looks to private sector

Fred Buenrostro has confirmed he will end his six-year reign at the US' largest public pension, which is also losing its CIO, Russell Read.

The $244 billion (€156 billion) California Public Employees' Retirement System is losing another top executive to the private sector.

Fred Buenrostro, the retirement system's chief executive for the past six years, said Monday that he was retiring from public service before the year's end.

“Like so many other CEOs and senior executives here who have given up lucrative private sector opportunities to serve the public, he has over time talked more and more about wanting to consider the time left in his career to pursue exciting opportunities in the private sector,” CalPERS president Rob Feckner said in a statement.

Top officials from the Washington State Investment Board and the State of Michigan Retirement Systems yesterday noted that one of the challenges in running investments as a government entity is the inability to compete with private sector compensation.

Last week, CalPERS' chief investment officer Russell Read said he will leave his post in June to lead an environmentally focussed private equity unit.

The recent spate of high-level turnover has fueled speculation about tensions between CalPERS' board of directors and its executive officers over the aggressiveness of the pension's investment strategy. 

CalPERS president Rob Feckner moved to quell such speculation, which includes rumours the board has objected to the pension's move into infrastructure investing.

“We are speaking out today because of erroneous speculation,” Feckner said.”Media reports that raise a specter of controversy between him and the board are exaggerated. Anyone who knows CalPERS knows that part of our success as an organisation is our willingness to speak frankly and debate the issues. It comes with the territory.”

Feckner also said the CalPERS board has appointed Anne Stausboll as interim chief investment officer. Stausboll formerly worked as the pension's chief operating investment officer and before that as chief deputy treasurer for California.