Over a series of posts, we will discuss how CalPERS’ Marcie Frost, who joined the pension system as CEO in October 2016, even on paper was not qualified for the job. She was only a high school graduate. And even putting that aside, her experience was also wanting. The Washington agency she headed prior to joining CalPERS, the Department of Retirement Services, is essentially a pension back office plus a call center, vastly smaller and less complex than CalPERS.
But it turns out the papers Frost submitted were not all that they were cracked up to be either.
Frost made significant misrepresentations and omissions in the hiring process, in her resume, and in the resume search firm Heidrick & Struggles prepared based on information she provided. Frost may also have made false statements on her employment application, a document filed under penalty of perjury. Implausibly, CalPERS claims not to possess any of the pages from it that show her education and work history.
Frost told her biggest whopper to Heidrick & Struggles by inflating her educational status, apparently to obscure that she was only a high school graduate 1. She doubled down on the fabrication in the press release announcing that she was joining CalPERS and on an ongoing basis.
Specifically, Frost has repeatedly claimed she is actively enrolled in dual bachelor’s/master’s degree program at The Evergreen State College. Yet Evergreen has never had a dual undergraduate-graduate degree program of any kind. Even worse, Frost was never enrolled in any degree program whatsoever at Evergreen.
Frost has never made a serious effort at getting a college degree. At Evergreen, the only post-secondary institution she has ever claimed to have attended, Frost was only a “non-admitted student” who took a writing course for two quarters in 2010.
Frost also omitted an employer on her resume, which has been found to be a serious misrepresentation in employment-related lawsuits, and made false claims about her accomplishments in some of her roles.
Moreover, not only did Frost make false statements to CalPERS, but also to the Governor of Washington prior to being appointed Director of Washington Retirement Systems on a questionnaire filed under penalty of perjury.
Bear in mind that Chief Financial Officer Charles Asubonten was dismissed from CalPERS recently,
based on our investigation into his own inflated resume claims. From CalPERS’ statement of the reasons for his being rejected during his probationary period (emphasis original):
…you are rejected during your probationary period for reasons relating to your qualifications, the good of the service, and failure to demonstrate merit, efficiency, fitness, and moral responsibility….because of misrepresentations you made regarding your work history prior to and after your hire at CalPERS…you made false, incomplete, incorrect, and misleading statements as set forth below….
Title 2 of the California Code of Regulations, Section 324 states “If the conduct, capacity, moral responsibility, or integrity of the probationer is found to be unsatisfactory, it shall be the duty of the appointing power to reject that probationer from the position.” (Emphasis added.) As described in detail above, you repeatedly provided false, incomplete, incorrect, and misleading information about your work history as it pertains to Transmax/RSA Capital, and failed to be forthright during the investigation
CalPERS cited falsehoods on Asubonten’s resume to support their dismissal. As the text above indicates, Asubonten was on probation, so the bar for his removal was low. Frost is effectively in the same position, since as CEO she is a permanent at-will employee.
As we will discuss in a later post, CalPERS claims it cannot find the pages of Frost’s employment application that required her to certify her educational and work history under oath. That suggests that someone at CalPERS has destroyed documents to hide evidence of Frost having committed perjury.
This post will review:
Frost’s misrepresentations about her educational status
Frost’s other omissions and misrepresentations during CalPERS’ hiring process
The later posts in our series will cover:
How Frost attempted to cover up for the most glaring falsification, that of her educational status
How Frost’s resume as a stand-alone document raises red flags about her competence
How Frost, even leaving aside her educational background, is not even remotely qualified for the role of CEO of CalPERS
Neither Frost nor the chairmen of the two state public pension committees, Dr. Richard Pan in the California Senate and Freddie Rodriguez in the Assembly responded to our request for a comment on our findings.
We did not go looking for this story. A CalPERS insider pressed us to make a Public Records Act request for Frost’s resume and employment application. That was based on the concern Frost had personal reasons for her reckless defense of resume fabricator and now departed Chief Financial Officer Charles Asubonten, specifically of not wanting to set the precedent of pushing an executive out over resume misrepresentations. That hunch looks to be accurate.
Frost’s Misrepresentations About Her Educational Status
We made a Public Records Act request seeking Frost’s employment application, all versions of her resume, and all e-mails, including attachments, with the word “Frost” in them from shortly after former CEO Anne Stausboll announced her departure in early 2016 through July 14, 2016, when CalPERS issued a press release saying the system had hired Frost as CEO.
We have embedded Frost’s resume at the end of this post. You will note that it is completely missing a section on “Education.” We will discuss its other considerable shortcomings in a later post.
Frost represented to Heidrick & Struggles that she was a “matriculated student” in a “dual degree program”:
CalPERS’ July 16, 2016 press release announcing Frost’s hiring, which would have been subject to her review, states2:
Frost’s alleged enrollment at Evergreen was picked up by Bloomberg, Chief Investment Officer, Wealth Management, and other specialist publications.
On a SecuriCheck release form signed 6/15/16, embedded at the end of the post, Frost describes herself as having last attended Evergreen in 2014 and “not degreed yet,” implying she was in the process of obtaining a degree.
On November 4, 2016, after Frost had joined CalPERS, I asked the head of communications Brad Pacheco via e-mail:
A reader informed me that [Investment Committee Chairman] Henry Jones had told external parties that Marcie Frost was to be awarded a college degree by the end of October . If that is the case, can you please tell me the name of the school and the degree awarded (such as AB, BA, BSc)?
Ms. Frost is still pursuing a degree so your post remains accurate. I’ll correct with Henry.
Frost’s official biography, published on March 17, 2017, courtesy the Wayback Machine, has this statement at the end:
Frost represents on her most recent LinkedIn profile, which she appears to have put up in August 20183, that she has studied “Business Administration and Management”:
All of this is false and all came directly or ultimately from Frost.
We obtained records of Frost’s enrollment at the Evergreen State College from the National Student Clearinghouse, which is contracted by Evergreen to provide definitive verification of student enrollment and degrees awarded. We have embedded a screenshot at the end of this post.
We also spoke at length, and in some cases multiple times, to four senior officials at Evergreen, a professor and three senior administrators. Among them, we received multiple confirmations of every statement listed below:
Evergreen has never had a dual bachelor’s/master’s program of any sort. The only dual degree program Evergreen offered was for a dual undergraduate degrees, a bachelor’s of art and a bachelor’s of science. That was discontinued in 2014.
Frost was never enrolled in any degree program at Evergreen. She never applied to be admitted as an undergradute and only took courses as a “special student“. She therefore was never a “matriculated student” nor pursuing a degree4.
Frost attended Evergreen for only two quarters in 2010, not 2014.
Frost never studied business or management at Evergreen. The Evergreen sources took exception to how Frost characterized her course work. The only course Frost took was a four credit “experiential writing course.” She was also conferred eight credits for “prior learning experience” as in her work experience. She did not have to do any course work for those eight credits.
Even if Frost had been a matriculated student in 2010, which she was not, that status would have lapsed at the beginning of 2012. Evergreen’s policy is that students in degree programs can only take a one-year leave of absence. If they have been un-enrolled for longer than that, they need to reapply and hopefully be re-accepted.
On top of that, CalPERS posted an updated bio for Frost on May 23, 2018, shortly after Asubonten was dismissed for lying during the hiring process. The new version makes no statement whatsoever about Frost pursuing degrees. This change looks an awful lot like an admission of guilt.
Frost made similar misrepresentations to the State of Washington in a Gubernatorial Appointment questionnaire filed under the penalty of perjury. Unlike CalPERS, the State of Washington makes these records public without redactions. We have embedded the document at the end of this post.
Notice how calculated this lie is. The claimed enrollment dates, and especially the use of the dash in “2009-” effectively assert that Frost has been actively studying at Evergreen every year from 2009 through the date Frost signed the form, 1/31/13. As we have shown, Frost was not enrolled in 2009 at all, took non-degree classes only for only two quarters in 2010, and was never enrolled thereafter.
The form contains a second misrepresentation. The certification language over the signature line states: “I certify under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of Washington, that the information above is true, complete, and correct to the best of my knowledge.”
The information is not complete. Frost skipped this section:
Frost’s maiden name was Bowen. Her first husband was Lamb. Internet records show Frost has used the name Marcie Lamb, so she should have answered this question in the affirmative. Why the erasure? We can only speculate.
Frost’s Other Omissions and Misrepresentations During CalPERS’ Hiring Process
We will focus on two additional clear misrepresentations and discuss a probable third one.
Omission of Frost’s job at the credit union WSECU. Both the resume below, and the version prepared by Heidrick & Struggles, show an apparent period of unemployment from May 2008 to March 2009. This is consistent with what she showed on the Washington questionnaire. (Note that she was not required to show a full employment history there, but the same gap shows in the jobs she did present in that document.) Before and after, Frost worked for the Department of Retirement Services.
Yet Frost’s latest LinkedIn profile, which she put up in August, and an older one both show her working at the Washington State Employees Credit Union, or WSECU, and the more recent one shows dates from 2009 to 2010.
One of our Evergreen sources is a member of the credit union and volunteered that, “Even though it has a lot of branches, it is a rinky-dink operation. They must outsource almost everything they do.”
This is from Frost’s new LinkedIn profile:
Curiously, she seems to have gotten a retroactive promotion. This is from an older profile that appears to date from when she was at WSECU:
Note that the dates that Frost now shows for her time at WSECU are for different years than the employment gap on her resume. It seems more likely that the dates on LinkedIn are the correct ones. First, a BizJournals story states that she re-joined the Department of Retirement Services in 2010, not 2009:
Frost began working with the Washington pension system in 2000, and served as a leader in several departments, including human resources, information services and operations. She worked for a year in information technology with the Washington State Employees Credit Union, before being named deputy director of Washington’s state retirement system in 2010. She was appointed director of the state pension system in 2013.
Second, LinkedIn also shows that Frost’s son Ryan Frost had a summer job at WSECU in 2009. That would be consistent with our understanding of when she worked at the credit union, and her having helped him get the position while she was there, even though WSECU has an anti-nepotism policy (summer jobs may be seen as too inconsequential to enforce it for them).
Moreover, Frost admitted to having worked at WSECU only when she filled in the SecuriCheck form for her credit check, when she was at CalPERS on the day of her interview with the board on June 15. This means the existence of that job was apparently only disclosed for purposes of the credit check, not as part of the hiring evaluation process. It would have been logistically impossible to get the new information in that form to board members for their consideration, even assuming Frost filled out the form before, rather than after the interview.
In addition, as you can see if you look at the form and at the resume, the information she provided to SecuriCheck was false. She said she “held position at WSECU between two employers listed above.” But Frost’s resume says she went from the first employer she had listed on the form, the Department of Labor and Industries to the Department of Retirement Services in November 2000, with no gap in employment. In fact, she went to WSECU from the Department of Retirement Services and then returned, and not between employers as she lied to SecuriCheck and therefore to CalPERS.
If Frost indeed was at WSECU from 2009 to 2010, that means her resume is false in another regard, by giving inaccurate dates for the jobs she held at the Department of Retirement Services. Her resume shows her as being the Deputy Director of the Department of Retirement Services from March 2009 through January 2013, when her newest LinkedIn (which we have downloaded) shows a shorter tenure, of May 2010 to January 2013. And that is consistent with the BizJournal article, which was presumably based on information from CalPERS and/or the Department of Retirement Service’s press office.
It is also worth noting that Board President Rob Feckner sent Frost a written job offer and Frost accepted the offer in writing on June 24, before CalPERS had received the results of the credit check.5
Note also since the form itself was released to me, any e-mails or further discussions about it would have been subject to disclosure. The only ones provided were of discussion of lower-level staff about the delay in getting the credit information. So this falsehood about her work history apparently never reached any decision-makers.
Omitting an employer from a resume is such a serious breach that it has been used by employers as “after acquired evidence” to argue that the employee engaged in a fraud in the hiring process and a termination is warranted on those grounds.
Frost wildly exaggerated her accomplishments at the Department of Labor and Industries. This is from Frost’s description of a job she held from 1997 to 2000:
Implemented the first human resource technology systems for the State of Washington.
Anyone over 50 who has been in a large organization and is moderately observant would recognize the implausibility of claiming that large state agencies didn’t use computers as part of human resources systems prior to the turn of the millennium. And indeed, her claim is false. Washington State records show the use of computers in human resources dating back to the 1970s.
From the State of Washington’s Department of Personnel, Human Resource Management System (HMRS):
HRMS is the primary focus of this document. As the enterprise HR and payroll system for Washington State government, HRMS captures and distributes a wide variety of financial and HR data. System data and functionality support state HR practices, central services (such as employee benefits, labor management, and financial management), and strategic planning across state government….
In 2002, the Washington State Legislature funded a modern enterprise-wide payroll and HR management computer system to replace the state’s 30-year-old mainframe system (PAY1).
So the current Washington system (HRMS) is 2002-vintage. The state’s own records document that there has been a human resouces technology system since the 1970s. This is what you’d expect; government was either the first or a very early adopter for computerised replacements of paper-based systems.
Frost made implausible claims about her accomplishments in working on Washington’s adoption of “hybrid” pension plans. Washington states that it was the first pension system to institute “hybrid,” meaning joint defined benefit/defined contribution plans.
Here is Frost’s description of her role as Project Manager, her first position at the Department of Retirement Services. Note that she was in this position only for seven months, from November 2000 to June 2001:
Responsible for delivering high impact projects across the organization within scope, budget and schedule. Implemented new hybrid retirement plans and large technology projects including a comprehensive imaging management system that had two components, business process workflow and back file. Managed vendor deliverables in accordance with delivery-based contracts. Created a project management framework with associated course certification materials. Prepared and conducted change management sessions to transition people from old processes to new. Developed expert level skills in contract negotiation and management and subsequent escalation management.
As anyone in IT land will tell you, seven months is barely enough time to put out a contract for bid and then negotiate it and sign it in the private sector, and the timetables are almost without exception longer for government contracting. It is simply impossible for a system of this type to have been contracted for, coded, debugged, gone through the inevitable user change orders, and have been rolled out in this time frame. Yet if you read the text carefully, that is precisely what Frost claims: that she negotiated the contract, oversaw the vendor, got the project done within budget, and trained employees on the new system (which cannot be done until the development is complete).
Also bear in mind that Frost went from this position to be head of Human Resources. Had she been doing something essential on the hybrid pension system develoment/rollout project, she would have had to stay in the IT Department to see it through.
But if this claim is miraculously true, Frost has a different problem, that she looked the other way while the Department of Retirement Systems was defrauding retirees.
The system had a known issue about how it calculated beneficiaries’ interest. If Frost was as deeply involved in this hybrid development project as she says she was, she either ignored or did not follow through in response to concerns from a member or members of the DRS staff on that issue. Benficiaries who enrolled in the hybrid plans before 2002 entered into a class action lawsuit against the Department of Retirement Services that was eventually settled for $5.5 million after an appellate court ruled against the pension system. From that ruling (emphasis ours):
In 1992, in conjunction with developing a new database system, the DRS considered whether to continue using its quarterly interest calculation method. The agency considered alternatives including continuing its existing practices or moving to one of several methods for compounding interest monthly. In evaluating this decision, the agency recognized that the quarterly interest calculation method was unfair because an employer’s late transfers to the DRS could lead to the employee being denied interest, a similar problem to the denial of interest that later occurred with transfers to Plan 3. Despite this problem, the DRS elected to continue using the quarterly interest calculation method. Nothing in the record shows that the DRS considered any advantages in continuing the quarterly calculation method; rather, the DRS elected to continue using the existing method despite the recognized unfairness it created.
Moreover, it is hard to imagine that Frost in her next position in HR didn’t hear about the objections made to the interest calculation:
Furthermore, in 2002, a DRS employee raised concern that the quarterly interest calculation method did not conform to industry standards. The record reflects that a DRS manager agreed that the matter should be considered. But the record does not show that the DRS undertook any consideration of the benefits and drawbacks of retaining the quarterly calculation method.…
The decision to continue using the quarterly interest calculation method was therefore undertaken in
wilful and unreasoning disregard of the facts and circumstances, making it arbitrary and capricious.
This lawsuit also gives a window into the culture of the Department of Retirement Services:
Ignore any issues which are in the Sounds Hard box
Fob staff off when they raise concerns
Don’t do anything to address problems even when the warnings pile up
Dig your heels when the dirty laundry gets aired in even if it involves expensive and futile litigation
So is this who CalPERS wants as CEO? Someone who puts public relations for the employees and board over performance of fiduciary duty on behalf of beneficiaries and ultimately California taxpayers? Worse, someone who lied to the State of Washington under penalty of perjury and told repeated and not even consistent lies to CalPERS? How can the board, employees, beneficiaries and the legislature put an iota of trust in Frost when she can’t even tell the truth on a sworn document when she has big promotions at stake?
CalPERS needs to launch an investigation of Frost’s apparent misrepresentations and omissions during her hiring as it did with Asubonten. She is already damaged goods by virtue of her extensive lies. CalPERS cannot afford to make the bad optics even worse by treating a white woman more leniently than it did a black man.
1 Frost’s maiden name was Marcie Lynne Bowen. She graduated from Forks High School in 1982. Her first husband was Mitchell C. (“Mitch”) Lamb and her second husband was Robert Frost.
2 The CalPERS site was down on an unscheduled basis starting on Saturday late afternoon PDT. The error pages said it would be back up on Monday August 27, 2018 at 6:00 AM PDT. We have a screenshot of the press release. The site was back up on Sunday, but if it has another seizure, you can also view the press release on the Wayback Machine.
3 We started looking into Frost’s history when we received a response to our Public Records Act request on August 6. When we first earched for a LinkedIn profile, we found two sketchy ones for Frost with hardly any followers. A colleague we contacted said that was not unusual, that there were actually quite a few half-hearted profiles on LinkedIn. As far as we can tell, the profile for Frost as CalPERS CEO was published in the first half of August.
4 Officials at Evergreen stressed that they have a robust student tracking system so as to assure that students who have changed their name or made other personal changes have all their information associated with a single student number. I had three independent checks made of the records made to be absolutely sure that the information provided by the National Student Clearinghouse was accurate and complete. The only way Frost could have taken classes at Evergreen and not have them included in the enrollment records would be if she received a grade of “Incomplete” and did not satisfy the class requirements in the next quarter.
5 CalPERS was not completely reckless. It did not announce that Frost had been hired until it received the results from the credit bureaus.00 Marcie Frost Resume
00 Marcie Frost SecuriCheck Release
Frost Governor of Washington questionnaire
Hmmm… I smell blood in the water.
Keep up the good work.
Yves – So this is what has kept you so busy lately. Great work, once again.
I’m beginning to think that all of your efforts to expose the illegal and unethical practices of CalPERS is going to lead to another huge scandal like the pay-to-play that caught Fred Buenrostro, with civil lawsuits and criminal charges.
I’ve thought more than once that when this whole mess comes to some kind of resolution that you should consider gathering all of your CalPERS posts into a book on how the largest public pension was brought down once again by criminals and sociopaths.
I have often thought the same re Yves gathering all this work into a book, though i know she has often said here that she would never write another. It is excellent, important work that makes me wonder if those who vote on the pulitzers are paying any attention and miss the Bill Moyers’ show (when he was still on it) because that was a news program i think would have been willing to invite her on to discuss this work and a show she found worth her valuable time to be on. Getting these stories out and the information and practices of CalPERS to the public is crucial, and i personally find her reporting and the work of those helping her both inside CalPERS and out heroic as well as fascinating and inspiring, and the practices they are exposing infuriating. Never do i pass on an opportunity to direct anyone i meet to this site and series whom i think could be helped or “eye-opened” by her work.
Book? I’m envisioning a HBO miniseries with screenplay by Adam Sorkin and Cate Blanchett cast as our tenacious heroine.
Does Naked Capitalism need to investigate all hires in the last 5-10 years or will the legislature demand an independent investigation of the hiring practices of Calpers?
It’s clear the CalPERS Board cannot handle the simplest of duties such as approving expense claims or verifying work history, education, and references.
Agree. It’s becoming every more gobsmacking how incredibly poorly run CalPers is. I mean, even simple things are Effed up. It’s just … just ??? … insane.
Well, the Board isn’t capable of (can’t be bothered?) hiring prudently. So they outsource the screening process to, what are they called, Headfake and Struggles? I would seriously have a look at them, too. I assume they get paid to do something, perhaps the State of CA is not getting its $$ worth?
On that note – I expect the search firm was paid big bucks to find and vet qualified applicants. To quote Flight Captain Lionel Mandrake “I expect that there is something dreadfully wrong somewhere.”
At the least, I’d be demanding a full refund (and maybe damages) from the search firm. Plus, who is doing the background checks? Lowest bidder?
Wow. Wow. Wow.
Thanks so much, Yves.
Marcie Frost should have her employment terminated immediately. I don’t know if other charges should be brought, but this is frankly ridiculous. No wonder CalPers is run so poorly. I don’t wish to diss people who have not gotten a college degree, but seriously?? Marcie Frost was that ENTITLED that she believed she deserved this job without the relevant qualifications and experience?? Really??
And the Search Firm did that LOUSY of a job vetting her?? Really??
[Family Blog] that [family blog]. MY tax dollars going to waste in sooo many ways.
Keep up the good work, Yves.
Hope to see Fraudulent Frost evicted from her job very very soon.
Marcie Frost has got some “huevos”! A high school grad sneaking into a top position at CalPERS is absolute fantasy.
As the Asubonten affair played out I commented that Frost probably hired him as the future “fall guy” when things go bad at CalPERS. Turns out they were birds of a feather.
The CalPERS board has allowed itself to be conned; a new form of “Econned” (employment conned).
Yves, you can write this story without changing the book title.
Actually, Frost is pretty impressive – as a con artist. I really wonder how she pulled off such a career trajectory with only a high school degree. Might be a movie in that, too, sort of a “Catch Me if You Can” with a female protagonist.
She makes a worthy antagonist for Yves, I think.
Forks High School? Is she a vampire?
Friends come and friends go. Enemies accumulate.
Concerning Ms Frost’s hiring process, it would be interesting to know who were Ms Frost’s “sponsors” on the then board of Calpers, and the exact nature of the relationships.
Yes, follow the money. She could not have been the best candidate for the position — someone was pulling strings.
For some definition of “best.” If someone were looking for an enabler of the long con, it seems like she is exceptionally qualified.
The most recent former dean of the esteemed medical school that I work for was completely useless-which was exactly what the then presidents of the college and our clinical affiliate wanted. So the search firm that the chose recommended this dude who was already canned from two other medical schools.
Really… really… amazing work here. It just gets worse and worse. I can’t even begin to express my shock that such an enormous pension fund is run in this manner. I just can’t imagine anyone with a resume like that even getting a very undemanding mid-level management job without some hard questions being asked. You can only wonder who the failed candidates were.
My resume looks better than Frost’s and I’d never, ever — not in a million years — go up for a position like CalPERS CEO.
I’d not have the balls to do the sheer, unmitigated flat out blagging that would be needed to even have half a hope of pulling it off.
It takes a certain something to even think about doing it. I’m not though entirely sure how to exactly describe that “something”…
Maybe you should be aiming higher in your job searches. You never know – there might be a senior position opening up soon with West Coast-based public pension fund.
By a coincidence I was looking at a job advert over the weekend – a friend thinking of applying for it asked me to have a look and give some advice as its in my general technical area. It was for a slightly higher to mid level government job here (about 2 levels down from Departmental chief), involving some technical advisory work and running a small specialist team. The salary is decent- a little less than double the average industrial wage (sort of a 20 percenter job) with good pension. The minimum requirement is 2 Masters level degrees, and 10 years experience in at least one of those sectors. My friend said she was aware of at least 3 people with that level of qualification who were thinking of applying, so anyone with less than that couldn’t expect to be called to interview. Hell, even a friend of mine who is aspiring to be a chef told me she is getting a Masters in kitchen management (or something like that) as anything less means she will not go beyond sous-chef in a structured professional kitchen.
The general point being, Ms. Frost must do one hell of an interview to have gotten CEO. Or some other skills.
I suppose it depends on whether or not the hiring committee has skill set requirements they’re unwilling to publicly disclose. An honest business will list in the job announcement all qualifications and required skill sets for the job, imo.
With the clear lack, even apparent opposition to fiduciary duty at CalPERS, this bit about Frost jumped out to me:
But if this claim is miraculously true, Frost has a different problem, that she looked the other way while the [state of Washington] Department of Retirement Systems was defrauding retirees.
There are skill sets, and there are skill sets.
adding: what happened in the state of Washington doesn’t necessarily mean Frost understood what was happening and approved of it; it might mean she didn’t understand what was happening, and when (if) made aware, had no idea what to do. The deer-in-the-headlights response.
It puts in on CalPERS to explain why they would find this an acceptable management style… for a $300. billion dollar pension fund.
Damn, I don’t know which explanation is worse!
And the state of California can’t be bothered to comment on these crimes, nor call the appropriate police to investigate, nor terminate those who have been perjuring themselves to get cushy jobs that appear to only be fronts for embezzlement and mis or mal feasance. One must wonder whom is it that is covering her arse? Follow the money.
Will this excellent reporting simply lead CalPERS to assert a variation on the Manafort Defense? “It’s not fraud if we knew that she was lying,” didn’t work for him either…
This is a complete horror-show for anyone dependent on a CalPERS benefit. Why does the CalPERS Board, under the direction of their criminal-defense attorney General Counsel, persist in hiring patently unqualified outsiders to be the top executives of their $350 Billion dollar fund (even if we take their blatantly falsified resumes at face value)? Is their theory it’s easier to “play dumb” when running a cover-up of bad investments influenced by political corruption if you really are dumb?
Follow the money.
Well, we now know how it was possible that Asubonten was hired. The hiring process at Calpers is seriously broken, the only question is whether this is intentional, or just plain human stupidity.
I have seen very senior people with high school education. But they never, ever, tried to cover it (in fact, most of them were showing off with it…). Covering it alone should be a fail on “honesty and integrity” check (should CalPers have something like that for senior management, *cough*cough*).
But as you say, her CV is, seriously underwhelming. VP position sounds grand, but VP in Ford is something entirely different from VP in a financial institution, where it’s really middle management. AVP is a jumped up junior. Director roles is the lowest run of senior management, but you have to be an MD to be looked at seriously. That anyone would, all else being equals, even consider even a Director in FI for a CEO of something like CalPERS..
So seniority covered, the actual experience is, well, again, pretty irrelevant to CEO on CalPERS. That is, unless CalPERS has all the problems because it can’t handle it HR. On the other hand, it does look like it, doesn’t it? But I somehow doubt that she was hired to fix CalPERS HR..
I am left stunned. This would be all we needed in the beginning to understand the what is happening at CalPERS. People who do not have the education/experience to do their job, must hire people who will not understand that she doesn’t understand.
Even if this woman was not corrupt, she would not be able run CalPERS.
I will be increasing my annual help in the 2018 NC fund-raiser. This piece is a great example of why we need to help keep Yves in “fighting trim.”
Incredible. Did want to ask about this though:
> Omitting an employer from a resume is such a serious breach that it has been used by employers as “after acquired evidence” to argue that the employee engaged in a fraud in the hiring process and a termination is warranted on those grounds.
Is this universally true? It seems to be common advice to prune older work experience entries on your resume (unless the older job is especially relevant to the job you’re applying for) to keep the resume short, and to help avoid age discrimination. Similarly, it’s common advice to omit short or inconsequential jobs if you have stronger work experience. For example, omitting the 3-month temp job you took between getting laid off and finding a new permanent job, or omitting the job you quit after 2 weeks when you realized it wasn’t a good fit.
I know government job clearances will usually say to list *all* jobs you’ve held within a certain timeframe, so omitting jobs is definitely not OK there (or anywhere in the private sector where you’re specifically asked to list all jobs), but on a resume where there’s no explicit or implicit representation that the job history is complete?
The Washington State Gubernatorial Questionnaire specifically — under the threat of perjuring oneself — requires responses to be complete and accurate. Missing out a whole 9-month (minimum) held position in a paid capacity at an organisation can no way by any stretch of the imagination be judged to be providing a “complete” account of one’s employment history.
So that’s bad enough, just there.
And if you made deliberate misstatements to secure a job — which would include omission of material information about your career history — you’re obtaining employment by deception. This voids any offer of employment. This is a standard clause in any contact of employment. People get fired every day for doing this. This is precisely what got (former) CalPERS CFO Asubonten summarily dismissed once Naked Capitalism (and, for which great credit is owed, some of CA’s big newsprint titles which re-ran the story) proved what he’d done.
The State application form allows no wriggle room:
Again, no way would working at the WSECU not be deemed a “relevant job”.
Yes, I agree Frost’s omissions/lies are a problem, because the forms specifically require full disclosure. My question is more about the private sector where it’s uncommon to be asked for a full history. (Obviously though, if any employer specifically asks for a full history, and the employee intentionally omits things, that’s a problem, whether public or private sector.)
These are not older jobs we are talking about. This is a job that Frost first omitted entirely and then when she ‘fessed up to it in a back-handed manner on her credit check form, she presented it as if it took place more than 15 years ago and hence was no biggie (even though she deemed the job before that to be significant enough to list).
Frost herself glosses over her earlier job detail in the manner you indicate on the resume.
The specific concern over an omission is that there is presumably a not good reason for the omission. On the California employment application, the work history section requires applicants to say why they left a job. It is designed to flush out dismissals.
To the more general point, I don’t know case law on this issue and can’t answer either way as far as older jobs are concerned.
Yves…your work meets and far exceeds expectations. By God, NC is one terrific blog.
Ignoring her tenure at CalPERS, how did she get into these other senior positions in Washington State with only a high school diploma.
I am not a fan of credentialism, but government bureaucracies are, and it this to me that her positions were some sort of political payback to someone for something.
Unbelievably brazen they are!
How in the world does someone with a high school degree gets to become CEO of one of the largest pension funds in the nation?
Is it like Tim Geithner who got the top job at the NYFed while not having a clue about financial markets, banking etc so that he would be easily manipulated by the very peeps he was supposed to regulate?
Awesome reporting! I can’t wait for further revelations about Ms. Frost.
Amid all this detail, one snippet caught my attention: “even though WSECU has an anti-nepotism policy (summer jobs may be seen as too inconsequential to enforce it for them).”
Yet, summer internships are often the way careers get started — an important way to pass on elite status for those who don’t quite have enough cash to just buy their kids a business.
Our institutions and leaders are failing us every which way. As a City employee, I would be fired for these actions.
I would like to hear a statement from every single board member and the Governor regarding these allegations. And where is the Sacramento Bee and LA Times?
Thank you, NC, for birddogging this story. Would love to see Yves at the CalPERS conference in October!
As a CA taxpayer I have twice emailed the Governor of California regarding articles posted here at NC and both times I checked the box stating that I wished for a reply. It has been many many months since the last email and I have yet to hear Word One from anyone in the Governor’s office, not even a form letter.
He is either part of the (still hidden as far as I can tell) real issues/corruption – not that Yves hasn’t shown us enough already – underlying CalPERS, or he couldn’t care less, or he is just hiding as best he can for political fallout reasons.
Hopefully I’ll be long gone from California before the S hits the F and taxes are jacked up, once again, in order to cover the mess with this State-wide Pension Fund. The entire State is going to end up looking like the City of Chicago at the rate things are going.
Thanks for going to this trouble. Your efforts would be better spent mailing the heads of the pension committees in the Legislature and your reps. CalPERS is afraid of the legislature.
As a long time Washington resident, a member of the state retirement system now retired, with a son who graduated from Evergreen in 2000, and as someone who knows a bit about the state, bureaucracy in this state, and the necessary work and skilled required for this woman to do the job she had with the system here, I simply CANNOT believe how she was hired. I mean, the step from working where she was to an organization as large as Calpers required that she conduct an unbelievable interview AND nobody at Calpers did anything in the way of due diligence. Yet, she was hired, and is still there, no? I would suggest you look into and find out who from the Board interviewed her. This looks a lot as if she has been hired by certain Board members and she is nothing but a front while Board members behind the curtain work the levers of the system. I suppose the other conclusion, that the whole organization down there is entirely crapified and incompetent, might be true as well. My guess here is that resume lying and falsification of academic records is totally widespread and even accepted. After all, it is now very likely that the people checking the resumes of applicants are themselves guilty of similar falsification. They may not even know what they have done is wrong. Finally, I applaud your diligence and persistence in chasing all this, opening a window into a world few care about (but should).
Astounding work, Yves! You better check to see if Ms. Frost even graduated from Forks High School. Forks is a classic depressed Northwest logging town–the Hazard, Kentucky or Cheat Lake, West Virginia of Washington state, all of them unduly dependent on and ultimately undone by government-subsidized resource extraction. It looks like with CALPERS, the plucky Ms. Frost simply moved on to a new version of that.
I did check but it was way more work to nail down than it should have been. The post links to the 1982 graduation list from Forks High School school and her photo in the class yearbook. Recall her maiden name was Bowen.
Attorney General Becerra is going to be all over this!
She claimed to be pretty high level in this video. Did she actually hold these positions?
An enterprising financial reporter may also be well served to undertake a CPRA of the CalPERS Investment Office’s hiring data comparing the demographic composition vs. hard skills (education/experience) of successful candidates vs. unsuccessful. I suspect one might find that a culture emphasizing internal diversity priorities trumped fiduciary responsibilities much like what’s been documented with Asubonten and Frost.
This is how good men and women become demoralized.
I have been following the CalPERS reporting since the beginning. The initial reporting on the CalPERS would hardly garner five comments. I was concerned the storyline would be dropped due to a lack of reader interest. It appears as though the story now has everyone’s attention – including the LA Times. Where is the Sacramento Bee?
Thank you, Yves Smith, for sticking with the story. I sincerely appreciate it.
Please, Please don’t be so hard on this poor maligned state employee.
So the resume was inflated a little bit. Everyone does that. Most folks polish their grade point average and inflate the number of direct reports too. Being dismissed, terminated, or let go is no big deal either.
The real questions are “What is the end game?”, “Where is the money?”, and “Who is her patron?”
This is stinky stuff, Yves, keep digging.
Heidrick & Struggles seems not to be giving the state of California much value for money. They were looking for a CEO for a large, sophisticated, nationally important pension fund, which is critically important to California’s residents, taxpayers and employees.
Their remit would have included verifying information provided by candidates, rather than simply passing it on. it appears not to have done that and, presumably, much else, since these lapses in process are often systemic.
Then, too, the board that hired Frost appears to be no better than the one that works for her now.
That was a lot of work to research this stuff. Making a waterproof case. The vehement Asubonten support was a red flag for Frost. Political correctness virtue signalling at all costs. Thanks for doing your best to fight endemic corruption in Sacramento.
Hi, interesting read. Is it true that she was a guest speaker at that college?
See the last paragraph where it says so:
It is hard to prove a negative. I have not been able to find any evidence that she was a guest speaker, but someone inviting her to show up in a class and answer questions could be treated as qualifying and something that minor is very unlikely to leave an Internet footprint.
Does the position she holds require a college degree or is it just your opinion that she should have one?
Do you have a reading comprehension problem, or do you make a habit of straw manning what people say?
The post is clearly and SOLELY about Frost having repeatedly misrepresented her educational status. What about lying and perjury don’t you understand? As we stated, CEOs are normally fired for precisely this sort of thing. Pulitzer Prize winner Mike Hiltzik made precisely the same point in a Los Angeles Times story that confirmed our work. The Financial Times also came to the same conclusion we did after reviewing CalPERS records. The first sentence in a September 9 article: “Marcie Frost, CEO of the $360 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), made
misrepresentations about her educational background during the hiring process…”
You also just left a comment on another CalPERS post that has been out for quite a while using a different screen name, and raising an issue that was irrelevant to the post. Had you bothered to read our Site Policies, not reading posts in full before commenting, straw manning what they say, thread-jacking, and sock-puppeting are all violations of our house rules. Commenting here is a privilege, not a right.
Shorter: Better trolls, please.
You are the one who is grasping at straws, as in straw manning. The issue is that Frost has misrepresented her educational background repeatedly, not just at CalPERS but all the way back to Washington state, where she committed perjury in her own handwriting on a gubernatorial questionnaire. And Heidrick & Struggles did not get it wrong. They have a disclaimer on their front page that the information came from Frost. The CalPERS press release when she was hired, which e-mails show that Frost had seen (as you’d expect) contained the same misrepresentation, that she was “pursuing” as in enrolled in (false) in a dual degree program that never existed, as did her official bio which she clearly approved. And these aren’t the only misrepresentations she made; there are others, such as ludicrously claiming that she started human resources IT system in the State of Washington in 2000, when in fact the state’s first HR IT system dates from the early 1970s. As for LinkedIn, you yet again straw man the point. The screenshot clearly shows she claimed was taking business and management courses, when she only took two writing classes.
And the board clearly did misunderstand. As we documented, Investment Committee chairman Henry Jones said that Frost was about to get her degrees. Bloomberg reporter John Gittelsohn was calling Evergreen regularly to see if Frost had been awarded her degree.
This is all about her lying and your diversions don’t change that fact. CEOs have to leave over misrepresentations like this. The fact that Frost is still at CalPERS confirms that it is a diseased organization.