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Calpers CIO’s Mysterious Exit Was Preceded by Months of Torment

  • Ben Meng was already under attack over links to China
  • CIO approved investment in Blackstone fund while owning shares
Ben Meng
Ben MengSource: Calpers

First, he was called a Chinese spy. Then he was accused of misleading his board. Yet Ben Meng stayed on as investment chief at California’s mammoth state pension plan. What finally drove him to quit wasn’t only the public pressure, it was a Wall Street sin every rookie in the business knows to avoid: He steered the fund’s money into investments that could benefit him personally.

Meng’s seemingly abrupt resignation Wednesday from the $400 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System was in fact months in the making, the culmination of internal scrutiny, external attacks and personal anxiety, according to people familiar with the matter. His downfall is a stunning development for the largest U.S. pension fund and raises questions about who would want to succeed him in a job that attracts so much unwelcome attention, not to mention navigate a pandemic, volatile markets and the struggling U.S. economy.