San Francisco's former first lady and financial advisor Wendy Paskin-Jordan is battling ethics complaints related to her reappointment to serve on the retirement board that oversees investments of the $20 billion public employees pension fund.
A decision whether to reject Mayor Ed Lee's reappointment of Paskin-Jordan to the board of the San Francisco Employees' Retirement System was postponed Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors to a specially scheduled meeting on Jan. 7. The board said it continued the decision to provide Paskin-Jordan, who was said to be out of town, a chance to address the supervisors and to further investigate the issues raised.
“I've been really troubled by this appointment. I don't feel like I have enough information,” Supervisor John Avalos said.
Paskin-Jordan, the wife of former Mayor Frank Jordan, was first appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2010 to serve on the board for the San Francisco Employees' Retirement System.
The concerns regarding Paskin-Jordan, who has worked for the Paskin Capitol Advisors firm since 2012, retaining the seat stem from two ethics complaints recently filed against her.
The main issue discussed Tuesday was her investment in Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo and Co., an investment firm, in which the employees' pension fund has invested $388 million. In a required financial disclosure statement filed last year, Paskin-Jordan reported she had invested between $100,000 and $1 million in GMO in August 2011. That amount, however, is below the company's minimum investment threshold of $10 million.
City law prohibits board members from investing in private equity, limited partnerships and in nonpublically traded mutual funds doing business with the Employees' Retirement System. Additionally, city law prohibits a board member from soliciting or accepting “a business opportunity, a personal loan, a favor or anything of value from any public entity or firm doing business with SFERS.”
In a Dec. 8 letter to the Ethics Commission, retirement system Executive Director Jay Huish argues that both these laws were not broken by Paskin-Jordan's investment.
Huish noted that GMO is considered a manager of public-market assets, and that Paskin-Jordan had received a threshold waiver to invest in GMO from her former employees who went on to work there. That waiver, Huish said, was granted before she was appointed to the board and exercised after she was on the board.
“I did talk to Paskin-Jordan about it,” Avalos said. “From her point of view everything was fine. To me it doesn't seem quite right.”
Because of the timing of her reappointment, the Board of Supervisors was forced to call a special meeting on Jan. 7, the last day it could decide whether to reject the mayoral nomination, which was made this month. The supervisors have 30 days to reject a mayoral appointee.
Paskin-Jordan has also become the target of some retirees for a perceived support of investing more of the pension funds into hedge funds, which they oppose. She has also drawn criticism from supporters of divesting the fund from investments in fossil fuels, suggesting she opposes their effort.
The complaints received by the Ethics Commission are under investigation.