Oklahoma Police pension head fired after embezzlement accusations

The $2.5bn pension system’s executive director allegedly arranged ‘for impromptu meetings with investment firms to justify travel expenses.'

The executive director of the Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System was fired on Monday after the state attorney general’s office announced a fraud investigation.

Steven Snyder, who was also the $2.5 billion system’s chief investment officer, allegedly submitted nine reimbursements totaling $26,265.35 for business travel from February 2015 through September 2017 that the state of Oklahoma’s audit department determined were for personal travel. The department acted on an anonymous tip, according to a warrant issued last week for his work tablet.

“Due to the nature of Snyder’s position, he does business with many investment firms throughout the United States and would arrange for impromptu meetings with investment firms to justify travel expenses,” the warrant said. “The investigation revealed that Snyder used the tablet and official email to communicate details of personal travel and meetings, including communicating to parties at his destination location and asking them to bring portfolios or other documents in order to justify a business expense.”

On Monday, OPPRS voted to remove Snyder in a special meeting. He had worked for the pension since 2009, according to his LinkedIn profile. Earlier in his career, he was an assistant state attorney general, from 1991-2005.

Sean Ruark, the pension administration officer, was named interim executive director on Monday. He has worked for the pension system since December 2006, according to his LinkedIn profile. Ruark declined to comment.

The OPPRS board has not named an interim chief investment officer and it was not immediately clear if they planned to do so, a source with knowledge of the situation told PERE.

OPPRS’s investment consultant, St Louis, Missouri-based Asset Consulting Group, oversees most of the pension’s investment activity, and the source said the leadership changes should not change its strategy. The consultancy could not be reached for comment.

“It should be business as usual” for investments, the source said.

OPPRS managed about $220 million in core and opportunistic real estate as of December 31, according to its most recent quarterly report.

The pension system had $119 million invested in JP Morgan Asset Management’s core platform as of December 31 and $38.7 million invested with Blackstone’s core-plus platform. Both managers declined to comment.

In opportunistic real estate, the firm had $57.8 million invested with four general partners: Cerberus Capital Management, Hall Capital, Siguler Guff and TA Realty. The managers either declined to comment or could not be reached. OPPRS also had $4.5 million invested in a direct real estate property.

Public pensions large and small have dealt with fraud issues. Most recently, a former portfolio manager at the New York State Common Retirement Fund‘s fixed income division pleaded guilty in November to two counts of conspiracy after US prosecutors said he steered more than $3 billion to two brokerages in exchange for more than $100,000 in bribes.

In 2005, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s then-chief executive Federico Buenrostro Jr started taking bribes to get CalPERS staff to steer investments to his placement agent friend. The CEO pled guilty in 2016 to accepting more than $200,000 in bribes and was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison.