Ex-Calpers CEO Gets 4 1/2 Years Prison for Bribery Scheme

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  • Buenrostro took $200,000 cash from ex-board member Villalobos
  • U.S. judge calls crmime ‘dagger in the heart of public trust’

A former chief executive officer of the country’s biggest pension fund was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison for steering $14 million in placement fees to an ex-board member in exchange for cash bribes and gifts.

Federico Buenrostro, 66, who headed the California Public Employees’ Retirement System from 2002 to 2008, was also ordered Tuesday to pay a $250,000 fine by a San Francisco federal judge who called his crime “a dagger in the heart of public trust.”

He admitted two years ago to conspiring to commit bribery and defrauding the U.S. and the state of California for his efforts on behalf of Alfred Villalobos, an ex-board member who brokered a $3 billion investment by Calpers in funds managed by Apollo Global Management LLC. Villalobos, who was also charged in the case, committed suicide last year, a month before he was scheduled to go to trial.

Before imposing a prison term on Buenrostro, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer called the scheme a “spectacular breach of trust for the most venal of purposes, which is self-enrichment.” The judge told the defendant that while he had a chance over a lengthy period to “turn back from this conduct,” Buenrostro instead “simply doubled down” on a “course of illegal conduct.”

Buenrostro gave Villalobos access to confidential information on Calpers investments and advised the board to make financial decisions that would benefit Villalobos and his clients. Buenrostro said he took $200,000 in cash bribes from Villalobos, as well as gifts, domestic and international travel, meals and entertainment.

The case is U.S. v. Buenrostro, 13-cr-00169, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).