One down, one to go.
The announcement that William Clark is "retiring" from his position as director of the Division of Investment is great news for all of those receiving and expecting to receive a pension from the Garden State. Now that he is gone, it is time for Governor Christie to fire Orin Kramer and the rest of the so-called leadership of the $68.7 billion in assets pension plan.
Mr. Kramer is clearly not the man for the job and Governor Christie needs to act quickly to make sure that the Division of Investment has the proper leadership in place to manage the assets correctly, efficiently and appropriately.
Mr. Kramer is not the right man for the job, not because he likes to be interviewed for magazine stories where he talks about his investment prowess and his sound investment decisions, but because of his inability to manage his own firm. For those not paying attention, in November, Ezra Levy, the former chief financial officer of Mr. Kramer's firm, Boston Provident LP, was arrested and charged with defrauding the fund of over $1 million.
Levy was charged by the US Attorney's Office in New York with securities fraud and ten counts of wire fraud. If Mr. Kramer can't keep his own house in order, how can he be expected to keep watch over the $68.7 billion in assets that provide the life blood for tens of thousands of New Jersey residents?
I realize that Governor Christie has quite a bit on his plate - the state has enormous problems - but fixing the management at the pension plan immediately is one thing that can be done quickly and that will reap benefits for years to come. A case can even be made that firing Mr. Kramer and replacing him and Mr. Clark with strong leadership will actually save taxes.
The right management will allow the plan to be invested in ways to insure that it can meet its obligations without raising taxes. The right management will insure that the funds don't invest in companies that are on the verge of bankruptcy - that turn into huge losses for the people of New Jersey. Under Messers Clark and Kramer, the pension plan invested more than $180 million in Lehman Brothers in April and June 2008, just months before the firm filed for bankruptcy. The plan lost more than $118 million on the investment and is now suing the bankrupt company for fraud. The lawsuit is pending. Recovery does not seem likely.
Then-Governor Corzine should have fired the two men over this mistake. This did not happen and now Governor Christie needs to act. He needs to put in place the right management team. It should be comprised of people who have no conflicts of interest and who do not work at or own firms where their employees are arrested for securities fraud. Simply put, the right management is anybody but Orin Kramer.
The good news is that relatively soon, on February 5th, the pension plan will be rid of William Clark. Hopefully, he will go far away from the state and not be allowed anywhere near the pension plan or any of its assets. To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Clark has not told anyone where he is going to work once he leaves Trenton. This is strange to me. Why is he hiding this piece of information? Don't we have to a right to know? Is he ashamed, or embarrassed?
I can't figure it out. If you know where he's going, please email me. In the meantime, be happy that he's leaving.
Now if we could only get rid of Mr. Kramer…
Daniel Strachman is an author of a number of books on investment strategy including Getting Started In Hedge Funds (Wiley 2005) The Fundamentals of Hedge Fund Management (Wiley 2007) and Essential Stock Picking Strategies (Wiley 2002). He is also a volunteer member of The Fanwood Rescue Squad and blogs at www.hedgeanswers.com. He can be reached at email@example.com