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Facing investigation, top Pa. pension investment officer steps down

Anthony Clark retires Dec. 31

Anthony S. Clark, the $270,000-a-year chief investment officer of the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System (SERS), has told the system he plans to retire Dec. 31. His early retirement follows SERS's decision to open an investigation into his actions while an executive of the $25 billion-asset fund.

Clark took the job, which pays more than Pennsylvania's Governor but less than many of the millionaire investment managers he reviewed to manage state money, in April 2011. On his watch, the fund hired additional hedge fund firms and other private managers in an effort to boost returns and narrow the $17 billion-plus gap between the system's long-term pension obligations and its assets -- a gap partly filled by increased state payments, which have made the pension system "a tapeworm" on the state budget, according to Gov. Tom Corbett. Calls to Clark's mobile phone and to his home in a suburb of Washington, D.C. have not been returned.

According to a statement approved by members of the SERS board, headed by Philadelphia lawyer and onetime State Rep. Nicholas Maiale: "Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, SERS' Board Chairman was made aware of an allegation related to one of SERS' senior staff." SERS spokeswoman Pamela Hile confirmed to me the staff member is Clark.

"To err on the side of caution, after we learned of the issue, the subject of the allegation did not return to the office, no longer had access to computer files, and was approved for use of personal/annual leave while an investigation takes place," the statement continues.

"The SERS Board will meet next Wednesday, December 11, at which time -- acting through our Audit Committee --we expect to begin work to engage an independent, third-party investigator. If there is merit to the allegation, we are eager to discover and address it.

"We are also eager, however, to ensure that conclusions are not drawn until a thorough, independent investigation has been completed."

Hile also told me the board has "accepted Tony Clark's letter of retirement which will become effective on December 31."

Among other initiatives, he placed $250 million in SERS funds with hedge fund manager Tiger Management, a New York firm that Clark projected would return relatively stable returns of 8 to 12 percent a year, but which instead lost money speculating on gold futures. Though Clark and a divided board asked Tiger to keep managing state funds, Tiger later said it was shutting downthe portfolio and sending SERS its investment back.