CalPERS Sleaze Watch: Showcases Criminal Ex-General “Betray-Us” as Keynote Speaker at Offsite

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”
Cc: “” , 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.

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.

Margaret Brown
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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. voteforno6

    One quibble about this – while I don’t have any particular respect for Petraeus, I do think that calling him a “traitor” is rather overblown for what he did. “Traitor” and “treason” are terms that are thrown around too casually in discourse, I think. The crime of treason is rather unique in the U.S., in that it is the only one as far as I can tell that is specified in the Constitution. I don’t think Petraeus’ conduct meets the requirements set out there.

    1. Lance

      Came here to say exactly this. When we use important terms so loosely (and inaccurately), we risk looking hysterical rather than justifiably skeptical.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Please consult a thesaurus. Put in “betrayer” which apparently you have no problems with, nor does the press and general public given the “Betray-us” monicker. In the one I use, “traitor” is the first synonym listed, in caps as the most apposite. The fact that it also has a specific legal status in the US as well as an informal meaning, someone who betrayed his organization or an allegiance, doesn’t make it any less appropriate. Specifically, from the Oxford Writer’s American Thesaurus, which is the one I turn to first:

      betrayer noun when we find the betrayer, he’ll wish he’d never been born: TRAITOR, backstabber, Judas, double-crosser, renegade, quisling, double-agent, collaborator, informer, mole, stool pigeon, turncoat, defector, informal snake in the grass, stoolie, rat, scab, fink

  2. The Rev Kev

    If Petraeus had just been a general caught with his pants down, he would have just gone off into obscurity. It happens often enough and even Eisenhower took his English driver as his mistress. But Petraeus was also briefly head of the CIA which makes him a “made man”. That make him bullet-proof which you can see by his activities since retiring-

    So, why the invite Petraeus as a keynote speaker? I suspect, though of course cannot prove, that favours are being exchanged here. CalPERS makes him a keynote speaker to help enhance his reputation as a member in good standing with the establishment & the public and in return CalPERS might expect a favour or two thrown their way down the track. Just simple horse trading at work here. As for CalPERS well, what can you say? Is anybody really surprised at their behaviour? A pig can’t help but roll in the mud.

  3. Wukchumni

    Ooo bonk me Dave Patraeus
    Bonk me Dave Patraeus…
    Bonk bonk bonk bonk me Dave Patraeus
    Bonk me all the time to the top

    He was into Intelligence
    And he lived in the big city
    It was near Vienna, in Langley
    Where he did everything
    He had Humordor by the balls, in the CIA halls
    But a couple women loved him
    And each one shouted:
    Come on and bonk me Dave Patraeus

    Patraeus, Patraeus, Patraeus
    Patraeus, Patraeus, Patraeus
    Patraeus, Patraeus, oh oh oh bonk me Dave Patraeus

    He was Superstar
    He was popular
    He was so exalted
    And then his peter got excited
    He was a reverse cuckold
    As his wife was looking old
    And he shouted:
    Come on and bonk me, i’m Dave Patraeus

  4. Susan the other`

    Margaret Brown’s email is encouraging because it proves that people on the board, and other people paying attention to things like the Petraeus scandal, actually saw it as a very serious thing. And they remember. I doubt the general can rehabilitate himself. That’s a good thing. He seemed so casual about the whole thing at the time. My thoughts were that he had betrayed the faction resisting war which included Obama back then. So it stands to reason that he would be rewarded by KKR. And that is doubly offensive. Curious that CalPERS is entangled. Or maybe not since it is the kahuna of retirement funds. So yet another thing this indicates to me is that Marcie is no innocent. And she is taking orders from someone. She has managed to skate through all of her own scandal just like Petraeus.

    1. Procopius

      So many vile people are rich and embedded in the finance “industry” that it matters not to Petraeus that many decent people regard him with disgust. He never has to meet them. He can spend all his time with extraordinarily charming and interesting people like Jeffrey Epstein. As Steven Hoffenberg said in an interview while he was in prison, Epstein “has a way of getting under your skin.” I gather Petraeus has the same kind of charm, only maybe not as much.

  5. Seal

    No one in #Amerika is owning up (speaking up) to the country being controlled by a #DeepState.

    IMO neither #Trump nor the #Fed are in control of anything.
    . Market all time highs on record low volume
    . Syria ‘pullout’ – u ever try a ‘pullout’ having sex???????
    . US still thinks WTC 7 spontaneously collapsed
    . Most of the major US press not writing the truth

    We’re looking at a large scale military defeat & US bankruptcy to end this.

    Petraeus’s sin is hubris (and his nemesis is Holly, the General’s daughter) . Slimeball Petreaus wrote the US Counter-insurgency manual and did not follow it but instead bought off the Sunni tribes then abandoned them. WaPo got a Pulitzer for the story. “We always knew they would leave us”
    Too bad he didn’t get hit by an M-14 instead of an M-16 on the firing range.

    Oh, obviously the Clinton’s pay-to-play foundation & criminal communication lapses, etc; and Sir David have enough on the DeepState so they’re protected.

  6. David in Santa Cruz

    This all begs the question: What on earth were they thinking?

    With a high school-educated CEO and a Chinese-born CIO who was living and working in China, it’s certainly possible that these two top managers were that clueless and tone-deaf. But where were the other top staff? “Striving Toward the Führer” and not wanting to rock the boat? Equally clueless about current events? Not a good look for an investment office!

    But there is another possibility that can’t be ruled-out. That this choice of the most ethically-challenged (and convicted) public figure in recent memory as keynote was an intentional insult to the tens of thousands of law enforcement personnel who are CalPERS members and beneficiaries — many of whom are vocal critics of CEO Marcie Frost.

    Law enforcement folks are leading organizers of the election challenges that have bumped-off two potted-plant board members, including the past president, and who are mounting a challenge to the current president who has positioned himself as management’s permissive enabler.

    CalPERS management appear to be more than just clueless and incompetent. They display the pathology of spoiled, immature, and entitled children. An even worse look for an investment office…

Comments are closed.