Report: SEC Begins NY Pension Probe

October 12, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.COM) - Federal regulators have kicked off an inquiry into the New York State pension fund in an effort to root out potential civil violations of securities laws, according to a news report.

Unnamed sources told The New York Times that the U.S. Securities and Exchange (SEC) Commission probe follows increasing scrutiny of the Empire State’s pension program over allegations ex-Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi arranged for investment firms to pay friends and relatives in exchange for business.

The staff review involves transactions between investment firms and the $154-billion state pension fund during Hevesi’s tenure and the role of intermediaries known as placement agents that helped facilitate the deals, the Times report said. The issue is whether Hevesi’s friends and relatives received improper financial benefits because they were close to Hevesi who served as the fund’s sole trustee.

The Times said the whole issue is turning into one of the most far-reaching public-integrity investigations in the state in decades, with federal, state and local investigators now involved. 

Federal investigators entered the picture after New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo launched his own probe in January (See  NY Comptroller Being Probed Over Conflict-of-Interest Activities ), along with an inquiry by P. David Soares, the Albany County district attorney.

According to the Times report, the SEC action is still informal. A formal investigation, which would give the SEC staff subpoena power, requires the approval of the commissioners.

Hevesi pled guilty to an unrelated felony over charges that he had state workers chauffeur his ailing wife and resigned in December (See  Hevesi Missteps Could Trigger Removal – Eventually ).