Why Marcie Frost’s Shoddy Resume Alone Was Reason Not to Hire Her at CalPERS

If you have not done so already, we suggest that you start with the earlier posts in this series: CalPERS CEO Marcie Frost’s Misrepresentations Regarding Her Education and Work History During and After Her Hiring and Cover-Up of CalPERS’ CEO Frost’s Misrepresentations of Her History: Document Destruction/Loss at CalPERS, Pressure on Evergreen State College.

A short update: CalPERS does not appear to have a good response to our posts yesterday. Via e-mail:

If a reporter calls Calpers about the story, Calpers is saying you’re a crazy person with a vendetta out to get Calpers anyway you can over private equity.

They are still saying Marcie is pursuing her degree.

I guess they mean in her own mind not as an actual student.

This is an admission that Frost cannot dispute any of the information we presented. More troublingly, it also says that the Board has not intervened to restrict her authority. In a well-governed organization, the Board would take over the handling of the press on this matter.

And for private equity, we don’t have a beef with CalPERS investing in private equity. We do with how they are going about it.

* * *

We are again posting the resume that Marcie Frost presented as part of the recruitment process for the CEO position at CalPERS. It is such a slipshod piece of work that the resume in and of itself should have warded off anyone considering hiring her. We have embedded it at the end of the post.

It isn’t just that it is rife with spelling, grammatical and composition errors, which points to a lack of care and worse, a lack of respect for the process and for CalPERS. As one pension fund officer who looked at it said, “This might be acceptable for an assistant manager at Applebee’s but not anything more serious.”

If you read it carefully, most of what Frost says about her most recent jobs are mere statements of job duties. They are tantamount to saying she sat in the seat.

For the secondary aspects of a job, this sort of description is informative to give a full picture of job scope. However for a senior role, a candidate for a step up in job scope (and CalPERS is a huge step up from the minnow where Frost worked before, the Department of Retirement Services), one expects a big portion of the patter to be a description of accomplishments. And for the last two decades, recruiters have increasingly pressed for specific description of those accomplishments, with them being quantified whenever possible.

Instead, as we’ll discuss in more detail, what Frost provided was a combination of inappropriate management bafflegab plus claims about performance that were so non-specific so as to come off as handwaves.

Having said that, one of Frost’s only true bona fides and significant achievements may go a long way towards explaining why CalPERS board did so little in the way of due diligence. Frost by virtue of being the Executive Director of the Washington Department of Retirement Services (DRS) was an ex officio member of the Washington State Investment Board. It is the State Investment Board that manages the pension assets.

Frost became chairman of the State Investment Board. That is a testament to the fact that she has highly-developed interpersonal skills and as we said of Timothy Geithner, gives good meeting.

However, while those soft skills can be very important in a managerial or executive role, they are far from sufficient. Moreover, the financial services industry is rife with successful CEOs who are openly abrasive and that is part of how they instill internal discipline, such as Jamie Dimon. On the other end of the spectrum, former Citibank CEO John Reed, who managed the impressive task of switching the giant bank off paper-based transaction processing to computers, was an introvert whose idea of a good time was spending a night at home reading Scientific American, back in the day when the magazine was much wonkier than it is now.

And let us not forget that the financial services industry CEO who had the nice guy act down cold, John Stumpf, the former chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo, claimed to know nothing about the rampant consumer abuses in his bank in Congressional hearings. That is a long winded way of saying that there is too much potential for fraud and franchise-destroying mistakes to run a financial services operation on a “let’s all be friends” basis. But that appears to be Frost’s modus operandi.

Frost’s Shoddy Resume

While it may seem pedantic to hector Frost over her error-rife resume, it is actually telling evidence of her failings as a manager.

Remember that Frost’s last two positions before joining CalPERS were as Deputy Director and then Executive Director of Washington Retirement Systems (DRS). DRS is the operations unit responsible for the customer-facing activities of the Washington public pension system, which consists of 15 pension plans plus a defined contribution scheme. A close analogy to DRS in terms of operational scope would be a branch-free retail bank. DRS handles accounting and payment processing for all beneficiaries, as well as participants in the state’s health plans. It also has a web portal and a call center.

As anyone who has worked in a high-transaction-volume financial services business will tell you, accuracy and consistency are paramount. Most people don’t even think about what an amazing accomplishment it is that your bank can take and make huge volumes of payments correctly and then send you an accurate statement, every month at the same time, of your account activity.

At a middle and senior level, accuracy again matters because spreadsheet errors and even minor mistakes in contracts can have dire consequences.

For someone in a top role to present such an appalling work product as their calling card in a job search sends all the wrong signals, even before you get to the cute choice to omit the obligatory “Education” section entirely. It says she regards getting things right as unimportant. That is a terrible signal for a leader in a processing business to send to her “team members”.1

Even if Frost has as bad a case of typo disease as I do, the resume gaffes are still unacceptable. This is presumably a known problem for her. How hard would it have been for her to get a good friend, or at worst spent $50 on TaskRabbit, to go over the resume carefully and clean it up?

So as not to weigh down the post, we’ll list some of Frost’s errors in the second footnote.

Frost’s Sketchy Accomplishments

We’ll focus on Frost’s three most recent positions at DRS. Recall that in our initial post we found both a clear as well a probable misrepresentation in her job history before that.

Parsing her narratives about her jobs is like nailing Jello to a wall. Too often they string buzz phrases together without stating a concrete result. That is so abnormal as to raise questions. It makes the resume come off as evasive.

Applicants typically state accomplishments in a specific manner for several reasons. First, giving detail has consistently been found in research on cognitive biases to greatly enhance credibility. Someone as interpersonally skilled as Frost would surely know that.

Second, giving color about achievements encourages interviewers to ask about them. It’s a way of steering the recruitment interviews in advance to favorable terrain.

And the reason this is particularly worrisome in the case of Frost is her insinuation that she’s an effective operations manager. Notice she doesn’t even say that directly but expects her audience to accept that by virtue of her being asked to speak about it. From the “Career Snapshot” section:

…guest speaking a course [sic] at the University of Washington Evans School on performance management, including how the Department of Retirement Systems is implementing lean, and the role of leadership in creating a high performing organization.

Lean should be “lean” as in “lean management techniques”. They are a consulting industry repackaging of the ideas of statistician W. Edwards Deming, famed for his having worked closely with Japanese executives in improving process control and other management systems, and helping propel Japanese manufacturers to world leadership, and their further development in Japanese companies.3

The State of Washington in 2011 launched a state-agency wide “lean” initiative, with the focus on reducing waste, which is code for costs. This appears to be a response to the post-crisis plunge in state revenues, which also led to headcount cuts.

One of the hallmarks of “lean” is the implementation of metrics for processes and services to measure performance and track the success of initiatives (as well as flag failure so corrective measures can be taken). If Frost were a successful “lean” practitioner, you’d expect her resume to give at least one or two examples of tangible improvements. Instead, text like this makes her seem like a “lean” poseur:

… sustainable outcomes can only happen through the support of the right people doing the right things in an accountable management system..

I have been leading significant organizational change to become a customer-satisfaction driven agency with a high level of team engagement. I have also implemented a comprehensive management system, which includes a fundamentals operational system for all expected outcomes and core processes. Performance is discussed in a quarterly target review format, attended by all agency leaders and lean green belts and black belts. Performance management is a cornerstone to the five key goals of Elated Customers, Engaged Team Members, Vigilant Resource Steward, Best Practice Leader and Reliable Partner.

What this reveals is Frost string together buzzwords that at best say she has only gone though the motions.

Similarly, an article by Washington State’s guru on “lean” describes successes by other agencies, and curiously mentions Frost without setting forth a single achievement by DRS.

And while it is hard to prove a negative, despite making a considerable effort, we could find Frost having spoken on “lean” only twice, once in 2012, the second time in 2015, at state government conferences on “lean” where many other agency officials spoke as well.4

We’ll discuss the growing evidence at CalPERS of Frost’s failure as an operations manager, which should have been her strongest point, in our next post. But one data item points to failure of her “lean” efforts at DRS. In this late 2012 video from the first Washington “lean” conference, Frost says that DRS has 220 employees. Her resume says DRS has 250, which is presumably the headcount when she left. That is an over 10% increase in staffing. And Washington State data in 2015 for fiscal year 2014 shows 303 employees, although that could include part-timers.

Another revealing part of Frost’s resume, and not in a good way, comes in the first paragraph of her description of the Executive Director role:

The Washington governance structure is unique and requires a high level of strategic agility to be effective. My role is to provide that strategic agility ensuring that members, stakeholders and decision makers are well informed about benefits, contribution rates/funding and investments.

“Pension funds” and “strategic agility” are not in the same universe. Anyone who tries to put them together either does not understand the pension fund businesses or is a management fashion victim, the executive version of a matron who ought to know better sporting knee high patent leather platform boots because they are in this year.

Pension funds are or at least ought to be stable operations where changes are made after careful deliberation and when possible, testing. Consistency and accuracy are paramount. Pension funds are subject to exacting legal, and for private sector funds, regulatory requirements that govern how they operate.

By contrast, the sort of companies that are exhorted to be “strategically agile” are ones in highly dynamic fields where the risk of being outrun by competitors is real. Pray tell, what is the competition for the Washington pension system?

Misleadingly, Frost equates the complex (or perhaps more accurate, compartmentalized) structure of the Washington pension system to complexity of the role of the head of DRS. That is far less true than she implies. If Frost were the head of a unit in a self-contained pension system like CalPERS with the same functions as DRS, the big differences would be that the Executive Director would not be responsible for submitting an external budget (although it probably would still have to prepare one for internal purposes) and would not have its own staff functions, like human resources, public relations, information technology, and legal reporting to the unit head. So the any additional complexity is due to DRS being its own little empire up to a point, and not to any “strategic” issues.

In fact, even suggesting that DRS has or should have a strategy is a stretch. While formally DRS’ long term budgets are called strategic plans, DRS as a customer-facing operations entity is on the receiving end of decisions made elsewhere, most importantly, by the legislature. And as we indicated above, those don’t come often, by design.

Finally, the text under Frost’s 2009 to 2013 position, Deputy Director, starts with:

Washington was the first public system to implement hybrid retirement plans. As a result, the entire organization went through significant change and ultimately a culture shift. Part of this shift was
due to the newly required daily environment, new knowledge requirements, new on boarding processes, communication requirements, and new relationships with third party record-keepers and the WSIB. The hybrid plans were brought into existence in three separate waves with Teachers (TRS Plan 3) being first. Public Employees (PERS Plan 3) second and School Employees (SERS 3) third. I held various roles in each successful implementation and accumulated both technical and management skills in their delivery.

What’s wrong with this?

As Frost’s own resume reflects, Washington approved the launch of hybrid plans in 2000 and Frost claims to have worked on IT implementation that year. Given the state of search engines these days, I cannot find start date for the SERS 3 plan, but a result in Google shows it to be live in September 2004.

By listing this change much later than it took place, and therefore also much later in her tenure at DRS, Frost is implying she was in a far more senior capacity while the roll-outs were underway. That would result in her being given more credit for these success than she actually deserves.

So we are left with ugly questions. Did any member of the Board actually read the words in the resume? Or did they merely rely on their search firm to do all the work? It looks like both Heidrick & Struggles and the board punted on what is the most important decision CalPERS makes, that of who they put in charge. The fact that the board can’t be bothered to do this right says they are not fit to serve and need to be replaced.


1 It isn’t clear whether this choice predates Frost, but DRS fetishizes the use of “team members” to refer to employees. It’s anti-accountability because by blurring roles and responsibilities, it is designed to foster the idea that everything is a group effort, and the implication is that no one in particular is responsible for anything. That was one of the big excuses made for the failure to prosecute anyone over the damage done by the crisis: everyone was responsible, so no one was responsible. It is also pandering because it implies a faux egalitarianism. You can be sure that no executive would go so far as to suggest that all “team members” including the top brass, should be paid the same.

2 One of the distressing things about Frost’s resume is that she is so addicted to bad managerial blather that she can’t even write in English. In her first paragraph alone:

“Results orientation” should not be hyphenated.

“Teaming” is not a noun.

“working with people through the unique challenges” does not make sense

“began guest speaking a course” is presumably “guest speaking for a course”

“implementing lean” may be acceptable usage for Washington state department members who’ve been required to implement so-called “lean management techniques” but the only acceptable version for a resume would be, at best, “implementing ‘lean'”.

We’ll be sparing with our examples from the rest of her resume:

Second page, first text para, no dollar signs before “80 billion” and “103 billion”

“Pension assets managed by the Washington State Investment Board are 80 billion with total AUM at 103 billion” is contradictory as written. The sentence scans that the total AUM of $103 billion are also managed by Washington State Investment Board, so assets are both $80 billion and $103 billion. Nice. The $23 billion difference between the first and second figure is presumably defined contributions plans. But that may not be.

“The Washington governance structure is unique and requires a high level of strategic agility.” Governance structures are not agile. The retirement system does not go around regularly changing its board structure, its appointment practices, its policies and goals, for starters.

Last sentence in this para is incomplete.

Second para, second sentence: “I have become…a customer-satisfaction driven agency.” Now that is really something!

“fundamentals operational system for all expected outcomes and core processes.” “Fundamentals operational system” makes no sense. “Fundamental operational system” is presumably what was intended but still makes no sense. And if outcomes are expected, why do they need supervision?

Third para ends with an obvious unfinished sentence: ” As a cabinet appointee, it’s important
to demonstrate a sound knowledge of the system in order to build trust, respect and ”

Same page, under “Deputy Director” job description, second para, lack of parallelism via shifting from past to present tense.

Last page, last entry. “Department of labor and Industries” is not capitalized correctly.

3 It would be difficult to have been more cost efficient than Sumitomo Bank was when I worked there. Citibank at the time had a similar number of retail branches as Sumitomo had, which is the big driver of headcount. Sumitomo had about 2/3 of the international branches of Citi, but those were smaller on average. Citi had over 100,000 employees. Sumitomo had 16,000 and was working on getting that down to 14,500. And I was in the Japanese hierarchy and can tell you that Japanese management isn’t cuddly or touchy feely (in fact, Sumitomo was ruthless internally) yet it is successful at achieving high levels of employee engagement. Of course, back then, lifetime employment was also a big contributor, since the corollary was that leaving meant there must have been doing something seriously wrong, like embezzlement. Lifetime employment thus led people to jockey hard for internal recognition and advancement.

4 If you watch Frost’s presentation, the first step she took in what she depicts as her ‘lean” initiative was to survey “team members” to find out how she could improve their satisfaction levels. There’s nothing in “lean” methodology which talks about employees’ morale, much the less improving it. And on top of that, there’s no evidence that happy employees are more productive. For instance, in an oft-told story at McKinsey, the then managing director of the firm, the patrician and well-spoken Ron Daniel, met with a consultant who McKinsey was considering engaging to look at the firm’s organization and human resource approaches. At the end of the session, Daniel said, “Whatever you do, don’t fuck with the insecurity.”

Marcie Frost Resume
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  1. Clive

    That PR response is laughable. We should, naturellement, expect nothing better from CalPERS. But it’s the crudest and least effectual PR strategy there is for crisis management. The best rebuke is to go through the negative story’s fact-set and either offer different or contrasting information from irrefutable sources, or, if you can’t do that, you have to accept the fact-set and try to change the framing or the narrative.

    After that, you can pick less good options such as putting up new information to broaden the story out — which is also known as “when you’re in a hole, keep digging” because this could then be used as the source for further investigative reporting that may turn up even worse bad deeds or cover-ups — in the hope of obfuscation. This is the PR equivalent of a distraction burglary.

    Finally, right at the end of the line, we have what CalPERS is trying to foist onto mainstream reporters picking up on this story. Namely, discrediting the source of the piece. You’d think, by now, CalPERS would have learned that particular lesson the hard way in terms of Naked Capitalism’s track record on CalPERS. But even if that wasn’t so, it’s a lame PR approach. For a start, it’s widely ridiculed in media circles. Here in the U.K. when an errant institution tries this on (this happened when the Too Big to Fail Banks attempted to blame everyone but themselves in the Global Financial Crisis) journalists have been known to respond with a line from an old British comedy / farce “Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!”.

    That fits here too because CalPERS playing the victim of a vendetta would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I’m still trying to get my head around how such a shoddy resume could lead to a job of that calibre. I did my stint years ago in ploughing through resumes to chose candidates for interview for various graduate starter posts and the general rule of thumb was that bad grammar and mis-spellings led to the first cull (rule of thumb was that this led to about 40% going into the bin). Yves has been aluding for a while now to Frosts lack of formal qualifications, but I could never have guessed it was this bad.

      The only question now of course is whether this is an indication of a completely incompetent structure from top to bottom, or whether Calpers got exactly the type of person they wanted for the post. I’m not sure which conclusion is worse.

      1. ChiGal

        If she was to be the board’s puppet, and they went about it in such a ham-fisted way, it seems like the current laughable PR line might very well be “the board” stepping in too.

        Methinks Yves is frying up some bigger fish.

        Rock on! All the swindled pensioners out there owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I get the impression that the Board has been managements puppet, rather than the other way around, but I could be wrong of course.

          But yes, I’m sure Yves has bigger fish to fry, I can’t wait to find out, I’m sure there is a lot more to come.

          1. ChiGal

            Just so; reveals my ignorance about these matters. I assumed if management wasn’t in charge the board was. But the corrupt politicians and contractors are evidently one step removed: the oligarchy likes a little cover.

      2. Louis Fyne

        a corporate Hanlon’s Razor, you can’t distinguish between actions due malice or incompetence or nepotism/some behind-the-scenes love favoritism.

      3. diptherio

        It seems obvious that the case is the latter, even if the former explanation may also be true, generally. But as you point out, her resume would normally have been round-filed immediately. So why wasn’t it, and more importantly, why were other people’s?

        Which is to say that for a position of this caliber, other people must have applied as well. You know, actually qualified people. They would have submitted job applications as well, no? It would be instructive to be able to see all of those as well, so that we could tell just how (seemingly) crazy the selection of Frost was, in context.

        I’d imagine that at least half the board is getting kick-backs or otherwise benefiting directly from CalPERS lax governance and poor decision making. The evidence is all circumstantial, at this point, but it’s pretty clear and pretty damning circumstantial evidence. If they are not getting kickbacks, and it really is just shear incompetence, they must be the single most inept group of “professionals” to ever sit on a board together.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Yes, indeed, that is the other question – who were the failed candidates? I’d be amazed if a job like this didn’t attract some very highly qualified and experienced people. They must have been pretty appalled if they found out they’d lost out to someone like Frost.

      4. ChrisPacific

        Given what we’ve learned of the governance structure at CalPERS, constructs like ‘CalPERS got what they wanted’ may be giving them too much agency. I’m betting that there were one or more thumbs on the scale from outside parties, and I would bet further that said parties are among the recipients of CalPERS-allocated public funds for investment.

        Remember, we’re talking about $350 billion of public pension funds with (apparently) minimal to no adult supervision. Nature abhors a vacuum.

    2. Anon

      Finally, right at the end of the line, we have what CalPERS is trying to foist onto mainstream reporters picking up on this story.

      Well, it will be interesting how Mike Hiltzik (LA Times) and the Sacramento Bee reporters respond to Yves reporting. If Hiltzik takes the baton, Frost is likely to be swimming with sharks.

  2. sd

    At first glance, it looks to me like the resume was written specifically to be captured by an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) looking for key words. It’s actually got nothing to do with her work history. It’s just strung together buzz words.

    In particular, ‘agile’ is the current hot buzz word in Project Management. It’s starting to show up outside of software development in completely inappropriate industries.

  3. Tom Stone

    Attorney General Becerra is going to be all over this!
    Real soon.

    In all seriousness, it’s an election year and the fact that no one has picked up this political football says a great deal about California’s politics.

    1. Louis Fyne

      But, but, but California’s a BLUE state. No Democrats would ever try to enrich themselves at the expense of the people!

      Please no one respond by telling me how awful Republicans are. I know. Saying the other team is just as covered in poo as you is not an argument.

      Original sin of progressives: ignoring regulatory-media capture, ignoring the need for term limits, focusing on shiny-toy identity politics while ignoring nuts-bolts boring stuff like board appointments and actuarial projections.

      1. Synoia

        No Democrats would ever try to enrich themselves at the expense of the people!

        Quite. The Clintons were serving the people.

        To whom they were serving them is unquestionable.

  4. The Rev Kev

    ‘They are still saying Marcie is pursuing her degree’. I like that. Americans are promised the Pursuit of Happiness too but in neither case is there a promised end.
    Going by the internal evidence of this resume that Yves has underlined here, it seems to have been entirely done by Marcie Frost herself. Doing a resume for such an important – and lucrative – position would demand a very high level of professionalism but such is not the case here, even if she did happen to use an online service like at https://www.atrixnet.com/bs-generator.html
    I can see two explanations here. The first is that it was a shot in the dark in much the same way that I might slap a resume together for an executive position with B.H.P. and mail it off because hey, why not? The second is that it was not necessary for the resume to be great as the position had already been allocated to her it so this was just a matter of going through the motions. It was never meant to see the light of day again. The interesting thing is that she was recruited from a different State instead of California.
    The implication is that she may have a guardian angel at work here on her behalf. I have read of how in the business world a manager may take over and import his own execs from where he had worked previously as they are a known team. I call this the baggage train effect but nothing that I have read indicates this happening here. I may be that someone at the top may have worked with her in Washington and so cleared the path for her to come to California to work with them again. So this is a definite maybe. The third way that comes to mind is that she was tapped for this position in private talks between management in California and Washington. I do not know if these State pension funds attend conferences and the like around the country but this might be one likely venue for exchange of private information. A person was needed with certain qualities and a contact in Washington said; ‘Got just the person for your needs’.
    The pity is that Frost may be in the wrong job and I would suspect that she would have been really great as a PR executive. Too late for that now of course. Watch this space.

    1. flora

      ” A person was needed with certain qualities and a contact in Washington said; ‘Got just the person for your needs’.”

      It’s not unknown for academic and state bureaucracies to give glowing recommendations for incompetent people they want to get rid of; it’s much easier to ‘promote someone out’ than to discharge someone who might file wrongful termination claims, etc. A competent hiring agency doing average due diligence should be able to find and reject these lemons in the vetting process. Doesn’t always happen of course, and so the agency that wants rid of the problem employee wins. (This scenario assumes there’s nothing more nefarious at work than just getting rid of an employee.)

    2. Miranda

      Your “guardian angel” thesis is probably the reason she got the job. In my previous life as a local government employee, you need a so-called “mentor” to get promoted. She probably received some “mentoring” from her “guardian angel” so Marcie Frost just prepared a badly written resume. Remember the famous saying among government employees: “It’s not what you know, but whom you know that counts.” Marcie Frost didn’t just took the saying to heart, she applied it; luckily it worked for her.

  5. flora

    Gosh, one might almost get the impression that ‘the fix was in’ for Frost’s hiring. ;) How far upstream this might go is an interesting question. Whether or not rich CA interests and their pet politicians have been using CalPERS as a personal piggy bank via ‘placement agents’ and ‘campaign finance donations’ is also an interesting speculation. (I know; it’s too far a leap to make at this point, but the questions do occur to me. Why else such a concerted effort to apparently ‘cover up’ Frost’s academic record and then ‘shoot the messenger’ when NC reports the facts?)

    Thanks for your continued reporting on CalPERS, PE, and pensions.

  6. diptherio

    The fact that the board can’t be bothered to do this right says they are not fit to serve and need to be replaced.

    With the exception of board members who weren’t there at the time, of course, like Margaret Brown. The rest of ’em though should not only be replaced, they should be investigated and fined (at least) for gross negligence.

    CalPERS is so inept that they can’t even find a better liar to be their CEO. I mean, come on, this is the finance world, people! You’re really telling me this is the best you can do?

  7. RUKidding

    The apparent reluctance to really “do” something re Ms. Frost can possibly be attributed, in part, to the intensity of feelings from those who hired this incompetent person to admit that THEY are in the wrong. And it does shine a spotlight on the HOWs and WHYs did this happen? Who was in charge during the hiring process and who is responsible for making such an obviously poor decision. And WHY did they do that? What were the motivations for hiring this clearly unqualified person for such a high level position.

    I’ve seen this type of thing play out time and time again in the workplace. Someone hires a complete disaster for a high level position, but those who hired the individual don’t want to admit THEIR mistake, so they keep backing their terrible hire, no matter what.

    I’d posit some of that is motivating the PTB at CalPERs right now.

    Keep up the good work, Yves.

  8. Adam Eran

    One interesting side note: A particularly plutocrat-friendly Sacramento County Supervisor is named “Sue Frost”… a relative?

  9. Anon

    Occam’s razor. Anybody who understands CalPERS knows the fingerprints of the internal “soft” diversity mandate in hiring is all over the Asubonten and Frost hirings. It is likely rampant throughout the organization and would make quite the story should it come to light. Diversity goals trump fiduciary responsibility in hiring at the nation’s largest public pension fund.

    1. flora

      This link is a segue to an interesting point about the reasons diversity ‘worship’ can trump competence in the real world. It’s not directly related to the CalPERS mess, but it’s not wholly unrelated.

      It was a daring and adroit deception: Ignore this structural salve that would upset the status quo, she implied, because it won’t resolve that more personal, more visceral issue which goes straight to the heart of your identity.

      Notice that this trick is aimed at policies which would threaten significant corporate or entrenched interests: the insurance industry, the banking industry, the energy sector, lenders. As the University of California, Berkeley, law professor and leading scholar on race Ian Haney-López observed as we discussed the motives behind this framing, mainstream Democrats, like Republicans, “are funded by large donors. Of course they’re concerned about the interests of the top 1 percent.” It’s almost as if the real agenda here isn’t ending racism, but deterring well-meaning liberals from policies that would upset the Democratic Party’s financial base.


    2. Ape

      Not exactly. If they fail to due diligence a diversity hire they would have done the same thing with a homogenous hire. The only advantage of the homogenous hire is that the wider pool increases the odds of a decent hire even though you’ve failed due diligence.

      And that no one says “that was a homogenous hire”.

  10. David in Santa Cruz

    A resumé that doesn’t list the applicant’s educational attainment and degree conferred should have been rejected out of hand.

    Frost’s work history reminds me of a public agency where I worked for several decades. The “professional” cadre at the agency didn’t want to have to deal with the union work rules of the “clerical” cadre, so they created a parallel structure in which favored clerical staff were promoted to the “management team.” These favored clerks wielded outsized authority within the organization, often attempting to dictate how “professional” staff went about their work.

    I can see how a socially-promoted clerk might appeal to the similarly rags-to-riches ex-CEO Anne Stausboll (previously an adjunct legal-writing instructor at UC Davis) and ex-Board President Rob Feckner (previously a broken-window fixer for the semi-rural Napa schools). However, this begs the question: Who benefits from the rampant incompetence and lack of qualifications at CalPERS? Certainly not the members and beneficiaries.

    Follow the money.

  11. Jeff

    Yves, this is the tip of the iceberg.

    Next questions to ask CalPERS:

    – How many candidates were considered for the CIO role?
    – How long was the role posted? Where was it posted?
    – Who made the decision to hire Marcie?
    – Were any of Marcie’s references checked? If so, how many? Does HR have copies of the reference checks?
    – What were the concerns, if any, the interview teams shared with leadership at CalPERS regarding Marcie’s candidacy?
    – Why was Marcie Frost considered as a candidate after her resume reflected problems with attention to detail, spelling and grammar? Did anyone on the interview express concerns because of the poor quality of her resume?
    – Were records of the interviews kept… notes from the interviewers?

    It would be good to learn some of the answers to these questions and would provide greater insight as to what made Marcie a better candidate for the CIO role than anyone else.

  12. Anonymous

    Out of curiosity I looked up her work photo. Between her professional image with the forced smile and her resume she looks to be one of those people who survive and progress in government bureaucracy by not making trouble. A worker bee, not a queen bee. I suspect she is a pawn and a scapegoat. Someone to take the fall if anything too illegal gets rooted up.

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