CalPERS Former Board Member Refuses to Talk about Alleged Bribes

August 31, 2010 ( - A former California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) board member invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 126 times when questioned in connection with a bribery scandal relating to the fund.

The Sacramento Bee reports that court records show Charles Valdes repeatedly refused to answer questions from a state lawyer about his relationship with former board member and placement agent Alfred Villalobos, and even declined to answer the most basic question about his tenure on the CalPERS board.  

Villalobos and former CalPERS chief executive Federico Buenrostro Jr. have been sued for their roles in an alleged scheme to get business for investment firms by giving pension officials luxury trips and other gifts (see Former CalPERS Officials Sued over Investment Scheme).  

Valdes wasn’t named in the suit, but he left the CalPERS board in January after more than 20 years’ service.  

According to the Bee, the suit says Villalobos took Valdes and Buenrostro on a round-the-world trip in late 2006, and Villalobos also paid for Valdes to attend the Oscars ceremony that year and made a large contribution to his CalPERS board re-election campaign the year before.  

A transcript of Valdes’ 45-minute closed-door testimony was filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.  

Leon Shahinian, a former senior investment officer for CalPERS, who the suit also says was bribed by Villalobos, recently resigned (see Amid Bribery Scandal, Suspended Top Investment Officer Leaves CalPERS).