NJ's largest labor union files ethics complaint against Chris Christie advisor over pension losses
By RYAN GORMAN
New Jersey's largest labor union will file a grievance with the state's ethics commission over pension investments reportedly channeled to firms close to Governor Chris Christie.
The AFL-CIO has sent an 11-page letter to the investigative body claiming State Investment Council Robert Grady improperly directed hundreds of millions of dollars to Wall Street firms charging exorbitant fees, the Newark Star-Ledger first reported.
The complaint comes on the heels of a series of reports from the International Business Times and Pando Daily detailing how taxpayers lost millions of dollars in fees to investment banks and hedge funds suddenly handed large chunks of the state's pension under sometimes questionable circumstances.
Union President Charles Wowkanech claims in a letter to the commission that Grady "violated the Division's own rules barring politics in the selection and retention of such funds and investments, and has further created an appearance of impropriety," according to the Star-Ledger.
Top officials at the firms reportedly have prior relationships with Christie and key advisors, and have even donated massive sums to Republican campaigns, according to the paper.
"It should not be seen as mere coincidence that the reports show Robert Grady was listed as a required attendee on a series of regular weekly phone conference calls held by high-level staff on the Governor's re-election committee in or around September 2013," Wowkanech's letter reads, the Star Ledger reported.
A $10,000 donation by General Catalyst executive Charles Baker to Christie's 2011 re-election campaign was soon followed up by a transfer of $15 million in pension assets to his firm, according to excerpts of the letter posted on the union's website.
The transfer of assets was done without disclosing that Baker was employed by the firm, a violation of state ethics rules.
The AFL-CIO letter details multiple other similar instances and also blasts the state's willingness to allow management fees to triple to nearly $400 million in 2013 alone.
Grady declined to comment on the Star-Ledger's report, but did contact the International Business Times earlier this year to address the site's published reports on the state's pension losses.
"Before participating in any phone calls, and before agreeing to serve as a volunteer senior policy adviser to the Governor during his campaign, I requested in writing, and received in writing, approval from the Ethics Officer of the New Jersey Department of the Treasury," Grady wrote, according to the Star-Ledger.
"At no time was the New Jersey pension fund discussed or was any manager hired by the New Jersey pension fund discussed. At no time was any pension business or any pension investment decisions discussed on these calls."
A Christie spokesperson dismissed the letter as a "cheap political stunt based on shoddy, distorted reporting from an individual who over and over again has been shown to be biased, willfully inaccurate, and just flat out wrong."
IBT editor in chief Peter Goodman told the Star-Ledger: "We are pleased the governor is continuing to read our stories, and we note that he has yet to challenge any facts."