CalPERS' board of administration on Thursday approved a policy that prohibits board members from receiving more than $50 in meals or gifts in a given year from individuals and firms doing business or seeking to do business with the pension fund.
“This policy reaffirms our ongoing commitment to be a more accountable, transparent and ethical board,” said Rob Feckner, president of the board of $239.1 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, Sacramento, in a statement. “It is an important step to ensure the trust of our members, employers and the public.”
The policy is a response to a corruption scandal that first surfaced in October 2009 involving a handful of CalPERS' top officials and board members receiving gifts from Alfred Villalobos, a placement agent representing private equity firm Apollo Global Management.
The 9-2 board vote Thursday putting the policy in places comes after CalPERS CEO Anne Stausboll and state Controller John Chiang, who is also a CalPERS board member, failed in their efforts to get legislation enacted that would impose the meal and gift limit on board members at CalPERS.
State lawmakers passed the legislation, but California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it last Oct. 7, saying creating a special set of rules for pension system employees was too complex.
Ms. Stausboll indicated at Thursday's board meeting that she plans to extend the new gift limits to CalPERS employees. They are now subject to even more stringent rules, passed by the board last year, that prohibits any gifts, even a cup of coffee.
CalPERS board member J.J. Jelincic, one of two board members who voted against the policy, said in an interview the new rules are too restrictive, particularly for meals, depriving board members of being able to attend meetings with money managers.
Mr. Jelincic said board members can't accept the meals, but can't get reimbursed by CalPERS for the full cost of the meal either, because the system's meal allowance is too low for most business meals: $6 for breakfast, $10 for lunch and $18 for dinner.