Investment managers paid more than $125 million over a decade to placement agents for gaining business with Calpers (California Public Employees' Retirement System), the US largest pension fund, often referred to as the mother of all pension funds.

The pension fund has significant allocations across the alternative asset class--private equities, venture capital, hedge funds globally and also in emerging markets including India.

These results came about after the $200-billion pension fund released more than 600 placement agent disclosures obtained by the pension fund from its external investment managers. A Reuters report says, this adds a new dimension to the wider pay-to-play schemes.

Calpers said, the inquiry focused on payments of more than $50 million that outside managers made, over a five-year period, to ARVCO Financial Ventures, a firm led by a former Calpers board member Alfred R. Villalobos.

“The review was sparked by the recent receipt of information provided to Calpers by investment funds that reported their payment of more than $50 million in fees over a five-year period to ARVCO Financial Ventures LLC, a placement agent firm headed by former Calpers Board Member Al Villalobos, who served on the Calpers Board as the representative of the State Personnel Board between 1993 and 1995”, said Calpers in a release.

Media reports suggest that the second highest amount was nearly $17 million, made in multiple payments to Tullig Inc. CalPERS records show that Tullig helped shareholder activist firm Relational Investors win a CalPERS contract in the 1990s, according to the data.

Tullig was followed by Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities, $12.3 million; Credit Suisse First Boston, $10.8 million; UBS Securities, $8.8 million; DAV/Wetherly Capital Group, $5.9 million; Presidio Partners, $3.5 million; M3 Capital Partners, $3.1 million; Denning and Co., $3 million; and Lazard Freres, $1.8 million. A few of these placement agents are also employed by Indian fund managers to raise money for them. Most recently, Presidio Partners acted as a placement agent for IL&FS Investment Managers which recently raised its  IL&FS India Reality Fund 2 (IIRF-2), at $895 million (Rs 4,300 crore). Also, SAIF Partners, a China and India focused fund, recently raised a commitment of $120 million for its fourth fund from Calpers. New Enterprise Associates (NEA), the US-based venture capital fund, which recently closed its $2.5-billion fund.

“In light of recent questions raised about placement agents, we are working aggressively to take measures to provide transparency, adopt thoughtful reforms, and restore trust in our system,” said Anne Stausboll, CalPERS Chief Executive Officer, in a release.

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