POLITICS

California pension fund loses millions on green tech: ‘A noble way to lose money’

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michal Conger

California’s public employee pension system has lost millions of dollars on its green investments, which a top investment officer for the fund called “a noble way to lose money.”

Joseph Dear, CalPERS’ chief investment officer, made the comments at the Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference this week, where he said the pension fund has pulled back on its clean energy investments to avoid losing even more.

“We’re all familiar with the J-curve in private equity. Well, for CalPERS, clean-tech investing has got an L-curve for ‘lose,’ Dear told the conference, the Sacramento Bee reported. “Our experience is that this has been a noble way to lose money. And we’re not here to lose money. We have dialed back.”

CalPERS has $900 million invested in clean tech, which has seen an annualized return of negative 9.7 percent, the Washington Free Beacon reports.

Those losses are ultimately passed on to taxpayers, who pay for public workers’ pensions.

The fund recently reduced its target return on investments from 7.75 percent to 7.5 percent and is considering hiking contribution rates on employers to recoup $100 billion lost on stock investments during the recession.

CalPERS also decided in February to divest its holdings in gun manufacturers, following a move similar to several other public pension funds and urged by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

CalPERS’ decision to pull out of profitable gun manufacturers while investing in failing green energy has caused some to say the fund is making politically-motivated investment decisions, according to the Free Beacon.

“One of the fundamental problems with governments holding large investment portfolios is the potential for those investments to be influenced by politics rather than sound finance strategy,” Jason Richwine, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, told the Free Beacon.

“Administrators can risk money on ‘noble’ investments, all the while knowing that their losses are covered by taxpayers,” he added.

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