Yves here. Readers of our CalPERS posts know that we regularly ask you to send letters to state officials and that has actually proven to be effective. Treasurer John Chiang, who sits on the CalPERS board, sponsored private equity transparency legislation, and insiders tell us that your letters and e-mails were a big reason why.
An even bigger way to help change the system is by running for office. Margaret Brown explains how Naked Capitalism led her to decide to run for the CalPERS board, a public office, and has helped make her a better candidate.
So I hope her story will not only lead you to donate to our fundraiser (the Tip Jar is over there), but if you are in California, to tell friends and family members who are eligible to vote for Brown in the runoff in November to cast a vote for her and promote her candidacy.
By Margaret Brown, a candidate for the CalPERS board
Naked Capitalism has meant a lot to me. If it is even remotely as important to you as it has been to me, please give now and give often.
I know firsthand the financial and emotional devastation that comes from losing your income and healthcare. For me, the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness came without warning. The treatment was expensive and had serious side effects, but the prognosis for survival (measured at 5 years) was good.
The treatment worked but unfortunately the side effects took their toll and left me unable to work. When my sick days were exhausted, I turned to CalPERS for my retirement options.
Instead of help, I received form letters from CalPERS stating that my final compensation could not be calculated. Instead, there needed to be an audit to determine my final compensation with no estimate of time from CalPERS. I was told to wait.
I could not work full time. The medical bills piled up. My disease went into remission and I have my family to thank for a place to live, to rest, and regain my health.
But I lost everything else. I used the courts for protection from creditors until I could find my financial footing. I paid my taxes and student loans, but I lost our family home.
I promised myself that if I survived, I would do everything in my power to help others who struggled with the CalPERS bureaucracy; to help those who were told to wait for their pension or healthcare issues to be resolved.
Naked Capitalism is the driver that has allowed me to keep the promise I quietly made to myself more than five years ago. I found Naked Capitalism by accident in 2016, when I was reading the OC Register and saw a story about the atrocious returns for CalPERS. I searched on the phrase CalPERS Losses Millions and up popped Naked Capitalism. I started reading and could not believe the commentary and depth of information contained in Yves’ blog.
The critiques were detailed and devastating, and most importantly accurate. There was so much more information than I had ever seen. I actually looked forward to the next story and the next, detailing all that was wrong at CalPERS.
More importantly, as a long-lost student of International Political Economy, NC was providing me crib notes for what was going on in the world. Yes it felt like cheating, but it is the best way to get detailed information on a range of issues.
In late January of this year, I read the post that CalPERS was trying to eliminate its most effective Board member, JJ Jelincic. I was outraged. How could legal counsel allow this to occur? And how could other Board members allow this to occur? Why wasn’t someone shutting this down? Why wasn’t someone helping JJ Jelincic? And that’s when it hit me. I could help him. I could run for the Board and help him. I could run for the Board and help others.
Once I committed to running, I knew I had to find a way to meet and talk to Yves Smith. Another frequent CalPERS critic provided the introduction. I quickly learned something that Naked Capitalism readers won’t be surprised to hear: Yves doesn’t suffer fools. She wanted to know my plan to win, and she wanted to make sure I had thought out what I was trying to do. She was tough, critical, and so very helpful. The woman has boundless energy and never sleeps.
This brings me to my final point, which is that Naked Capitalism isn’t just trying to chronicle things that are broken in our society. Rather, I have experienced firsthand that Yves and her colleagues are trying to fix them.
The blog and I share the same goal, which is to build up and strengthen CalPERS. We also share the same belief that this goal can only be achieved if CalPERS does a much better job of executing its fiduciary duties. The first step is for CalPERS to acknowledge that the status quo, which Naked Capitalism has painstakingly chronicled, is not acceptable.
I am proud to support Naked Capitalism, and I hope you will too. Go now, to the Tip Jar! And give like you mean it!