CalPERS, an agency with former CEO Fred Buenrostro in prison and current CEO Marcie Frost who flagrantly misrepresented her educational attainment during and after her hiring, again shows its true colors in its shameless selection of disgraced former general David Petraeus as a keynote speaker at its board offsite later today.
CalPERS, which attempts to wrap itself in a mantle of “environmental, social and governance” virtue-signaling, proves that that’s just a cheap PR stunt. Apparently Petraeus’ connection to private equity kahuna KKR makes it all OK.
But CalPERS tries to maintain the fiction that it has ethics, despite its deeply-rooted culture of casual lying. After all, its ESG pretenses allow for staff grifting in the form of wasting beneficiary and ultimately taxpayer monies by swanning around the world to attend ESG conferences. And you can bet the ones that are international trips aren’t in coach.
CalPERS’ hypocrisy and bad judgment are in full view. Petraeus made extensive disclosures of classified information to a reporter who was also his adulterous lover. He got off virtually scot free when a naive low level whistleblower, Reality Winner, who disclosed classified information with arguably no intelligence value, was sentenced to over five years in prison.
Moreover, as CalPERS tries to burnish the image of a traitor who not only knowingly passed on state secrets but then lied to the FBI about it, CalPERS is wasting beneficiary assets in trying to intimidate board members into not exercising their First Amendment rights to speak their own mind about CalPERS to the press. As we wrote in April:
CalPERS has a thing about leaks. We’ll use the word “leaks” in the very loose way that CalPERS does. Experience has shown that the organization applies that label to the public disclosure of any negative information about it, even if the information was in no way confidential and the releasing party, such as a board member, was legally entitled to do so.
Readers may remember the coverage we gave a couple of years ago to the trumped-up charges of “leaking” made against then-board member JJ Jelincic, where the allegations ultimately collapsed in the face of evidence that nothing that Jelincic had disclosed was a secret.
Nevertheless, that embarrassing experience has failed to cure the organization of its fevered efforts to find someone, anyone, to pin the blame on for its staggering decline in reputation. To advance that goal, CalPERS has hired a big bucks law firm to lead an investigation. However, like its previous efforts, this one will probably go nowhere in terms of unmasking actual wrong-doing. A tell is is that the investigation has been apparently structured to ensure that at least one important source didn’t get talked to.
So whether this “investigation” is intended for public propaganda purposes or merely to have its “findings” shown privately to the CalPERS board to bolster the notion that their poor reputation is undeserved and results from bogeymen hiding under every bed, rest assured that it is a garbage in, garbage out process.
I received several irate e-mails from prominent CalPERS beneficiaries1 about the Petraeus invite. For instance: “I am beyond disgusted with Frost and Meng’s choice of David Petraeus as the keynote speaker for the July 2019 Board Off-Site.”
Apparently board member Margaret Brown got even more upset missives than I did. I found a copy of this message in my in-box:
From: “Brown, Margaret”
Date: July 15, 2019 at 12:03:31 AM PDT
To: “Frost, Marcie”
, “Meng, Ben” , “Jones, Henry”
, Betty Yee , “Taylor, Theresa” , “Middleton, Lisa”
Subject: former General David Petraeus
Marcie and Ben,
How ironic that CalPERS management have chosen as their July 2019 Off-site keynote speaker, former General David Petraeus.
Perhaps only the recent Jeffrey Epstein scandal provides us with a more striking example of the culture of elite immunity from consequences for criminal misconduct engaged in to promote nothing more than self-aggrandizement. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petraeus_scandal
Petraeus, known to many by the epithet “General Betray-us” is notorious for violating his nation’s (and his family’s) trust.
He resigned as CIA director in 2012 and was sentenced in 2015 for engaging in a widely-publicized (and universally condemned) extramarital affair with a younger female reporter who he had ordered to be “embedded” with him during his deployment in order to research a fawning vanity biography of him while commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Petraeus divulged reams of classified information to his lover via a series of personal notebooks.
Subsequently, as director of the CIA, Petraeus lied to FBI investigators about the existence of the notebooks full of classified materials. FBI investigators eventually unearthed them when executing a search of his residence.
In an echo of current events, Petraeus subsequently cut a deal to plead to a misdemeanor charge with a guarantee of no jail term, when less exalted members of the military and national security establishment usually suffer felony convictions and lengthy jail terms for similar or even less egregious abuses of trust and authority.
Rather than retire in shame, Petraeus was hired by KKR even before his sentencing — at a reported annual salary of $2 million dollars.
He comes to us this morning as CalPERS management’s choice to be our keynote speaker. Perhaps this choice tells us more than some of us would like about the culture of the CalPERS organization as it stands today.
CalPERS Board of Administration
All Member Representative
Please forward to all Board members.
I trust CalPERS beneficiaries and the press will recognize what this choice says about the institution’s values and priorities. Actions like this speak far louder than words.
1 Dear Matt Jacobs and Brad Pacheco, I guarantee your guesses as to who contacted me are wrong. Don’t flatter yourself that you have any idea who pings me.