OLD Media Moves

Naked Capitalism blogger files public records lawsuit against Calpers

February 28, 2014

Posted by Chris Roush

Susan Webber, who operates the Naked Capitalism blog about financial and economics news writing under the pseudonym Yves Smith, has filed a lawsuit against the California Public Employees’ Retirement Systems for failing to respond to a public records request.

Webber argues that Calpers gave the information she is requesting about its investments and financial performance to three Oxford academics a year ago.

She writes, “I contacted a California attorney, Timothy Y. Fong, who sent a letter on January 30, 2014 to CalPERS Deputy General Counsel Gina Ratto which stated that if the information was not forthcoming, I was prepared to petition for a writ of mandamus and seek an award of attorney fees and costs (which is provided for under PRA).

“Galli promptly sent Fong a letter dated January 27, 2014, which had been sent certified mail. The key section:

The information provided to the authors of the article you referenced was not provided by CalPERS staff. After an extensive search, staff has determined we do not have anything to produce in response to your request.

“This is patently false as well as brazen. Notice what CalPERS is doing: they are trying to throw the researchers under the bus by stating that CalPERS staff did not provide the information. That raises the specter that the academics got it via some other route, say a former employee who had kept all this data or (horrors!) a hacker. The insinuation that CalPERS has not provided the data raises questions as to whether the data the academics used was accurate and complete.

“I e-mailed the authors of the paper and the lead author, Tim Jenkinson, wrote back. He said that he had indeed obtained the non-public information directly from CalPERS in 2009. In a second e-mail, he reconfirmed that not only he, but one of his fellow authors, and one of the other authors, Ruediger Stucke, had dealt directly with CalPERS staff.

“But aside from the flat-out dishonesty (the search was either not extensive or CalPERS misrepresented its results), consider the weasel-wording in the letter: ‘the information….was not provided by CalPERS staff.’ But that was not what I had asked for. I had requested information provided by CalPERS. It is possible that the data was conveyed directly from a third-party data repository such as LP Capital to Jenkinson et al. But that is irrelevant as far as my request is concerned. It is well-settled California law that actions taken by agents within the scope of their agency are imputed to the principal. Thus, even if as a matter of form, the data was provided directly by LP Capital or another CalPERS data repository to Jenkinson and Stucke, it would still be disclosable under the PRA.”

Read more here. The link also contains a copy of the Naked Capitalism lawsuit.

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