Dan Primack is the editor of peHUB, a Thomson Reuters publication.
The New York State Pension Fund kickback scandal is making new headlines. The Wall Street Journal reported that Steven Rattner, the head of the Obama administratino's auto task force, was one of the executives involved with payments that are under scrutiny, citing a person familiar with the matter.
On Thursday, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed a criminal complaint against Raymond Harding, former chair of New York’s Liberal Party, for scheming with the already-indicted David Loglisci and Hank Morris. Cuomo also coaxed a guilty plea and financial remuneration out of Barrett Wissman, a crooked former hedge fund manager.
All of this got me to thinking more about the issue of raising fund capital from public pension systems, a process that often is just begging to be corrupted. Inexperienced and smaller general partners (GPs) can have real difficulty getting in front of a pension system’s investment staff, because there is rarely a transparent or streamlined process.
The result is that many of these GPs hire a “finder,” which is typically a politically-connected individual who can gain access from the top-down. Most of these finders aren’t splitting their fees with the pension system’s investment staff – a quid pro quo that allegedly occurred in New York – but even the most above-board of these relationships boils down to influence peddling from my humble perspective.
Here’s how one GP explained it: “We hire finders because there’s sometimes no other way to get our 20 minutes in front of someone from the [pension system’s] investment staff. We’re not paying the finder for the fund commitment, but just for the opportunity to make our case and then have the system or its consultant conduct due diligence on us.”