Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Wolf at Thompson's Door

The Wolf at the Door of Thompson
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has expanded his investigation of the pension fund scandal into New York City Comptroller William Thompson’s office, and there seem to be plenty of reasons why Thompson should be nervous.

It was reported yesterday in the Times that it was under former top Thompson aide Josh Wolf-Powers’ advisement that Steven Rattner’s private investment firm Quadrangle Group hired the now-indicted Hank Morris as its placement agent. Rattner badly wanted to gain access to investment from the State’s pension fund and according to the Times, “Wolf-Powers told Mr. Rattner that he could not think of any investment firm that had persuaded the city’s pension fund to invest without using a placement agent.”

What hasn’t been reported until now is that Wolf-Powers knew so much about how the City invests its pension money with private firms, because Wolf-Powers and his close associates reinvented the New York City Employees Retirement System (NYCERS) when they were working under Thompson. True News has discovered that in 2005, the same year that Wolf-Powers turned Rattner onto Morris, Wolf-Powers left his key position with the City Comptroller to co-found the company Blue Wolf Capital Management with another top Thompson aide, Adam Blumenthal, who served as First Deputy Comptroller and Chief Financial Officer from 2002-2005.

Wolf-Powers makes no secret of his role in reshaping NYCERS. In his bio on his company’s website, Wolf-Powers boasts, “Prior to founding Blue Wolf, Mr. Wolf-Powers served as Managing Director - Private Markets for New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., from 2003-2005. In this position, Mr. Wolf-Powers oversaw the process by which the New York City Retirement Systems invested in private equity, economically targeted investments and other securities for which there is not a public market. During his tenure, the New York City Retirement Systems more than doubled their allocation to the private equity asset class, and their commitments to private equity funds, committing over $2 billion to nineteen private equity funds.”

Blumenthal and Wolf-Powers’ Blue Wolf Capital Management, like Hank Morris’ firm Searle, specializes in drumming up pension fund business for private investors. Under a section entitled “Government in the Value Chain”, Blue Wolf’s company website states, “Many middle-market private equity firms shy away from companies for which the federal government, federal agencies, or state or local governments or government entities, are major factors in the value chain. Government contractors and companies in industries driven by government procurement, policies or subsidies have a set of common issues which we specialize in addressing.” According to its website Blue Wolf is particularly well-suited for government procurement work, because “each member of our investment committee has served as a public official.”

Among Blue Wolf’s other top players are its operating partner Joshua Gotbaum, whose step-mother New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum is a trustee of New York City’s Pension Funds, and Mike Musaraca, who before joining Blue Wolf as its managing director, was previously assistant director of the Department of Research and Negotiations with District Council 37 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

In Blue Wolf’s January 2009 press release announcing the hiring of Musaraca, Blumenthal expressed high praise for the former top union official’s work with the City’s pension fund. “At the City, Mike was an invaluable partner in the changes to the investment and management of NYCERS`s assets we helped make, which benefited the assets of all of the New York City Retirement Systems.”
Blumenthal’s recognition of Musaraca’s role in reshaping NYCERS is reminiscent of Comptroller Thompson’s own 2005 press release announcing Blumenthal’s departure from his office. “Under Blumenthal's stewardship of BAM [Comptroller’s Bureau of Asset Management], the office structured innovative investment vehicles such as the City Investment Fund, which has resulted in pension investment in real estate in the City, doubled the private equity program's size and pace with commitments of more than $2 billion, established a new emerging managers program, and put in place an organizational structure including a new master custodian for the city's pension assets, a risk management unit and substantial professional staffing to support the pension systems investment initiatives.”

As Attorney General Cuomo probes Comptroller Thompson’s office, he is bound to find this intimate connection between those who created the system by which the City invests its pension funds and those who may have benefited financially from its exploitation deeply troubling. But will Thompson himself be drawn into Cuomo’s quickly expanding investigation into the pension fund scandal, or will he skirt direct implication as Alan Hevesi has so far?

What would Thompson stand to gain from any improprieties orchestrated under his watch? Well, according to a February 2009 article in the Times, after the City Council outlawed campaign contributions from limited liability corporations and partnerships went into effect, Thompson and his fellow Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner quickly collected as much money from LLCs and LPs as they could before the ban went into effect, aggravated good government groups that argued that Thompson and Weiner had undermined the spirit of campaign finance reform. Of the $50,174 Thompson raised, the Times noted one particular contribution to Thompson’s mayoral campaign. “On July 9, 2007, six days after the ban was passed, [Thompson] accepted a $4,950 donation from the investment firm Blue Wolf Capital Management L.L.C. and a $4,050 contribution from its co-founder and managing partner, Adam Blumenthal.”
It seems that the CFB isn’t having any more success regulating the special interests that control New York City politics, than the FCC had regulating the Wall Street investors who destroyed the nation’s economy.

Daily News Editorial: Out of control: The New York Times reported that former top Thompson aide Josh Wolf-Powers leaned on Rattner to hire a placement agent, telling Rattner, according to The Times, that he could not recall an investment firm that had won a city pension fund investment without using a placement agent. Rattner then hired Morris, who had been so effective with Hevesi in Albany, to work his magic in the Municipal Building. And apparently, he did. Thompson said yesterday that he wasn't aware of Morris' role and asked Cuomo to investigate whether Rattner's company had misled the city pension fund in that one deal *** Bill Thompson’s spokesman said it's “absolutely, unequivocally not true” that his boss and the former comptroller, Alan Hevesi, made any deals.

ANDY PENSION PROBE TO EYE CITY State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's sweeping investigation into pay-to-play corruption within the state pension funds has broadened to include a probe of New York City's estimated $82 *** THE RATTNER DISTRACTION Rattner and the private equity firm he established, the Quadrangle Group, seem to be eyeballs-deep in the scandal. Three friends of disgraced former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi -- former Liberal Party head Ray Harding, Democratic consultant Hank Morris and state pension fund manager David Loglisci -- have already been arrested and accused of taking kickbacks in return for securing pension-fund investments for private firms, NYP Ed *** NY pension fund bans controversial middlemen *** New York City Comptroller Draws Scrutiny *** Albany Bars Placement Agents for Pension Fund *** Pension Fund Scandal Expands: Rattner's Ties To Bill Richardson *** Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver arranged pension sitdowns, including one with Mike Richter *** Editorial: Out of control A n epic scandal has embarrassed state Controller Tom DiNapoli and city Controller Bill Thompson into taking action to prevent corruption in the handling of public pension funds. Far too belatedly, the two custodians of, cumulatively, almost a quarter-trillion dollars in pension money yesterday banned so-called placement agents from their offices . . . DiNapoli had also once met personally with the head of a private equity concern who was accompanied by former Bronx Democratic boss Roberto Ramirez. In that case, the pension fund upped its $50 million investment stake by $15 million. *** Cuomo turns pension-probe spotlight on city finances The 2006 deal took place nearly four years after Alan Hevesi left the city controller's office for the state's. Catterton also paid Daniel Hevesi - a registered financial broker who owned Praetorian Securities up until last year - a fee for a New Mexico pension deal *** N.Y. Takes Aim at Pension Agents *** Alan Hevesi's son, Dan, a former state senator, is now in AG Andrew Cuomo's crosshairs *** Dan Janison parses the pension fund mess thusly: "New York's public scandal of the day boils down to whether and when "paid intermediary" means "bagman."*** Boards, Trustees and Actuaries *** Rattner's Friend In High Places *** Pay-to-play pension probe: A left-coast edge *** Pension probe: Does 'placement agent' = 'Bag man'?

Road to City Hall Buying the party out from under Thompson From the NY Observer:According to the campaign, the coming month will be punctuated by crushingly regular announcements of endorsements representing an array of once reliably Democratic constituencies: unions; black, Latino and Jewish clergy; black and Latino elected officials; progressive civic groups *** DA candidates jump Snyder's flip on execution *** NYLCV Sticks With Bloomberg On Earth Day *** Liu Gets the Working Families Party *** Michael Bloomberg’s campaign said their online ads can be found by searching key phrases *** Wayne Barrett Channels His Version Of Bloomberg *** Bill de Blasio Opposes Superfund Status for Gowanus Canal *** Liu Says He'll Run Even If He's Not the Democratic Nominee *** Mayor's Campaign Spending Reaches $7.5 Million

The City LANDLORDS WILL PAY THE 'GREEN' Top city officials pledged yesterday that rent-stabilized tenants won't have to pick up the tab when landlords are forced to make their buildings more energy efficient *** Plan To "Green" NYC Buildings Announced On Earth Day *** THE COMEBACK KID: MA STUDENT BEARS NO HATE FOR SERB THUG *** 'TAMPER WITH MARRIAGE & WE'RE IN BIG TROUBLE' DOLAN: MAN-WOMAN TRADITION IS IN OUR DNA *** CYBERFIEND MEGABLITZ VS. NYPD 70K HACK ATTACKS A DAY *** NYPD Expands Surveillance Efforts In Lower Manhattan *** DUMBO Tower Goes Before City Planning Board *** Staten Island: Port Richmond Mexican Population Unites During Tough Times *** Aqueduct racino bidder sued From Newsday/AP *** Concern expressed at gas terminal hearing From NY1 *** Darkness descends on Hamptons real estate *** Off-B'way packs 'em in *** Fordham’s Lincoln Center plan clears key hurdl... *** Schools Panel Is No Threat to the Mayor’s Grip *** Study Cites Dire Economic Impact of Poor Schools *** New Riverside Pastor’s Compensation Splits Congregation *** Bloomberg Policy Blamed for Families in Shelters *** Growing Up Jewish in Postwar Kew Gardens *** MTA freeze on hiring as crisis grows *** Brooklyn brewer will take a shot at liquor business *** Developer says Superfund designation will derail Gowanus project *** Fight over student's rejection could prompt do-over of charter lottos *** Parents still willing to pay for private school *** Gonzalez: Head of church defends pastor's heavenly windfall *** Waterfront job referral spurs mob ties probe *** Hackers, many from China, attack NYPD *** Subway Riders are uncertain how much fares will cost in coming months *** Foreclosure notices received by homeowners in the city hit 4,220 in the first three months of this year — a 37 percent jump from the end of last year *** National Parks to Spend $37M on NY Harbor Projects *** Midtown Fumes Over Donnell Library's Fate

Albany RANDI'S TESTING U-TURN: 'PUSHES' A TENURE BILL UFT DEFEATED *** BAILOUT THE MTA VOTE DUE IN ALBANY *** EMERGENCY $TOP: MTA IN BUDGET FREEZE *** OFF-TRACK ECONOMY DERAILS SUBWAY RIDERSHIP *** MTA Begins Hiring Freeze Amid Bailout Uncertainty *** Questionable Support For Senate Dems' MTA Plan *** TAX INSIDER 'STOLE' 200G *** IT'S UP TO MIKE Looks like Mayor Bloomberg won't be getting much help from Gov. Paterson in the simmering fight to renew his authority over city schools, NYP Ed *** NY state budget director resigns *** State Director of Budget Resigns Post *** A Longer, Dirtier, Costlier Commute To avoid excessive public transit fare hikes and service cuts in New York City, state legislators need to pass a workable plan to address the M.T.A.’s budget woes, NYT Ed *** Senators' positions on marriage equality *** Assembly got raises, similar to state workers *** State Budget Director Laura Anglin resigns to take a lobbying job *** GOP congressional candidate Jim Tedisco wins a ruling in the 20th congressional race, but it isn’t known whether it will put him over the top. Democrat Scott Murphy’s lead grows in the race *** The expansion of the bottle bill may be delayed *** The state Senate will vote on an MTA bailout bill by early next week *** Jim Tedisco used more than $30,000 worth of RACC campaign cash to pay the personal legal bills of his chief of staff, who was fighting a defamation lawsuit *** A judge ordered the Yankees to show him the stadium data Assemblyman Richard Brodsky is seeking or prove why it should remain private *** Newsday wonders why Paterson is "moving ahead with losing plans for Aqueduct when there are so many open questions the future of gambling in New York." *** Paterson says he's deferring to Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith on whether the marriage bill should come up for a vote in that house ***Bloomberg Among Many Opposed To New MTA Bailout Plan

President Obama AP Poll: Americans high on Obama, direction of US *** Obama to host credit-card CEOs, pledges new rules *** HILLARY RIPS CHENEY: 'I don't consider him particularly reliable source of information'... *** At Core of Detainee Fight: Did Methods Stop Attacks? *** Obama Urges Passage of Energy Legislation *** Administration Stops Short of Endorsing Climate Bill *** ECO MOVE THREATENS OBAMA-TEDDY WINDSTORM The Obama administration yesterday released new environmental rules that could put offshore wind farms in Sen. Ted Kennedy's beloved sailing playground off Cape Cod *** BYE-BYE, BIRDIE SECRETS Authorities yesterday shot down a government proposal to keep data on collisions between birds and planes secret. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood killed the Federal Aviation *** DOT's LaHood says gov't secrecy is for the birds *** Obama Fuels Optimism *** Obama Waffled on Torture -- and Looks Weak - Ed Rollins, CNN *** 100 Days: What Obama Wants You to Read - VandeHei & Harris, Politico *** The Reeducation of Tim Geithner - Gary Weiss, Portfolio *** Geithner's Speech to the Economic Club of D.C. - Timothy Geithner *** CBSNEWS: Obama Earth Day Flights Burned More Than 9,000 Gallons Of Fuel...

Congress Democrats hold back on second interrogations probe *** House panel probes climate bill's downsides *** Dems push for torture hearings, ignoring Obama *** CONGRESS MOVES ON CONSUMER CREDIT-CARD BILL *** Pelosi knew NSA had listened to Harman phone calls... *** Pelosi ups pressure for torture 'truth' panel *** The Senate may begin an inquiry into the causes of the country’s financial crises *** Congress Knew About the Interrogations - Rep. Peter Hoekstra, WSJ *** The Jane Harman File - Los Angeles Times *** Colleagues Fear Inouye May Get Rolled By Obey - The Hill *** Clinton's Opening Remarks to the House F.A. Comm. - Hillary Clinton *** A judge ruled campaigns can review absentee ballot applications as they lodge objections in the race to replace Kirsten Gillibrand in Congress *** It may be too little too late for Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, who now trails Democrat Scott Murphy by 365 votes

National FDA to allow 'morning-after' pill for 17-year-olds *** F.D.A. Easing Access to ‘Morning After’ Pill *** Slump Creates Lack of Mobility for Americans *** In the Spirit of Openness The public must learn more about the Bush administration’s interrogation programs to ensure that these abuses will not be repeated NYT Ed *** Parents Unable to Halt Cuts at Private School *** New Campus Unrest As Donors Rebel *** Maine takes up the issue of same-sex marriage *** Craigslist Killer Kept Victims' Undies *** Is Education Costing Us More Than Health Care? - M.A., The Atlantic *** Cash-Strapped States Turn to Furloughs

International THE INFLUENCE GAME: Pushing a Mideast nuclear deal *** Countries trying to cope with severe global slump *** Rice OK'd CIA waterboard request as Bush adviser *** FLASH: UK Govt hikes top income tax rate to 50%... *** Taliban Seize Vital Pakistan Area Closer to the Capital *** Foreign Money Seeks to Buy Lebanese Votes *** A.N.C. Leads South African Vote With 64% *** Mizuho of Japan Warns of $6 Billion Loss for Year *** Japan Pays Foreign Workers to Go Home *** British Plan to Raise Taxes and Debt Sets Off Political Sparring *** Japanese Companies Seek to Revamp for the Future *** Taliban Move Closer to Islamabad *** Taliban 70 Miles From Capital *** My Father's Stand on Cuba - Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Washington Post *** China Flaunts Its Naval Muscle - The Economist *** Hugo's Book Club - Chicago Tribune *** Report: Al Qaeda Big Fish Nabbed in Iraq

*** A DELICATE BALANCE: MORGAN BOOSTS BEST IN BREED CAPITAL RATIO *** GM TO CLOSE MOST FACTORIES FOR SUMMER *** GM Plans to Skip $1 Billion Debt Payment... *** Oil Prices Resist the World’s Recession Trend *** Reported Suicide Is Latest Shock at Freddie Mac *** Treasury Said to Raise Offer to Chrysler Lenders *** DealBook: Madoff, the Movie, Coming Soon *** Toyota First-Quarter Global Sales Fall 27% ***Global Economy Called Worst Since 1945 *** IPhone Sales Push Up Apple’s Profits *** Regulators to Meet With Banks on Friday on ‘Stress’ Tests *** Madoff's Trading Firm Draws Multiple Bids *** BusinessBanks Playing Both Sides On Bankruptcy Bill, Have Reform On Life Support *** GM to stall out 15 of its plants *** It's bad out there: Silicon Valley CEOs turn to... political careers *** Bidding Wars Emerge On Foreclosures *** Fewer in U.S. Move as Economy Falters *** Lewis Testifies U.S. Urged Silence on Deal Bank of America CEO Lewis has testified that Fed chief Bernanke and then-Treasury Secretary Paulson pressured the bank not to discuss its troubled plan to buy Merrill late last year *** Final Days of Freddie Mac CFO *** The Silencing of Ken Lewis *** Ponzi Dad Horror *** We Are Still A Long Way Away From The Bottom - Nouriel Roubini, Forbes *** Clever Gimmicks Do Not Mend Banks - William Cohan, Financial Times *** Job Loss by Millions, Tax Hikes by Billions - Diana Furchtgott-Roth, RCM *** Why I Fired My Stockbroker - Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic *** Jobless Claims Soar *** GM Will Likely Shut Down Plants for Longer This Summer

People & Neighborhoods Kelly Breslin, 44, the daughter of the columnist Jimmy Breslin, died after collapsing, but a cause of death was not available, pending an autopsy. [NYT] *** Superfund The Gowanus Canal Now! Let's clean it now {Pardon Me For Asking} *** Kindertransport Memory Quilt Exhibit At the outset of this year's Holocaust Remembrance Week (or Days of Remembrance), I want to draw attention to the Kindertransport Memory Quilt Exhibit of the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan {Blog About Town} *** Frank Court Lake Still A HUGE Problem {} *** Flickr Convoy: At Ruby's Bar On The Boardless Boardwalk {Kinetic Carnival - The Coney Island Blog} *** Pardon Me For Asking: Two Toms Restaurant *** The Dodgers, Nedick’s & A Real (Brooklyn) Asshole {Who Walks in Brooklyn} *** Music Together Offers Discounts for Local Families In Need *** Brooklyn Jazz Fest: Women’s POV{Bed-Stuy Blog}