US - The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged two former officials at the New York State Common Retirement Fund (CRF) with fraud and accepting kickbacks for soliciting investments.
The scheme - which the SEC said ran from 2003 to late 2006 - saw the New York State CRF invest "billions of dollars" in hedge funds and private equity vehicles, which paid "finders' fees" to Morris and others connected with him.
Fund managers who refused to pay, were prevented from doing business with the pension scheme.
Morris and his fellow conspirators allegedly made up to $15m out of the scheme over the course of the fraud, the payments for which were covertly hidden and often channelled through a third party.
SEC chairman Mary Schapiro said: "Investments should be based on sound decisions not shady deals. We will continue this investigation and will pursue anyone who unlawfully profited from their privileged access to the hard-earned contributions of public employees."
SEC New York Regional Office acting regional director James Clarkson added: "Kickback schemes corrupt the integrity of the investment decision-making processes. These defendants enriched themselves and their associates at the expense of the fund."
Current New York comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said he was "outraged" by the alleged fraud. Under DiNapoli, the New York CRF has undergone a rigorous reform programme in order to restore the integrity of the fund and improve oversight of investments (Globalpensions.com; 11 March 2009).
He said: "Since I first became aware of allegations against this office in 2007, we have implemented numerous reforms to strengthen oversight and management of the Fund. We've worked with the Insurance Department to re-establish and strengthen its regulatory oversight of the Fund."
Di Napoli added: "We've made our operations more transparent and accountable. The reforms we've instituted would have stopped the transgressions committed during the Hevesi administration."
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