California’s Public Pension CIO Ben Meng Resigns

Yu Ben Meng, the chief investment officer of California’s public pension, resigned Thursday after less than two years in the position, during which he came under heavy scrutiny for his ties to China and several investment decisions.

Meng resigned effective Wednesday, citing a desire to focus on his health and family, California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) said in a statement Thursday.

Since becoming CIO of the nation’s largest public pension fund in January of last year, Meng has come under fire from board members of the $371 billion pension fund for failing to seek approval for his decision to sell off three hedge funds just before the March market crash that was catlayzed by the coronavirus pandemic. The sell off prevented the pension fund from cashing in on a payday of potentially upwards of $1 billion.

Meng has also come under scrutiny for his alleged ties to China’s Communist Party. He was deputy CIO for China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange before serving as CIO for California’s pension fund.

In 2017, Meng expressed a willingness to serve Chinese interests, saying in an interview with one of China’s state-sponsored newspapers that, “in human life, if there is an opportunity to serve the motherland, such responsibility and honor cannot be compared to anything.”

Representative Jim Banks, an Indiana Republican, has repeatedly called out Meng for what the congressman says is his “long and cozy relationship with China.”

In a February letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom, Banks called for an investigation into Meng, saying he was recruited to his position as chief investment officer by the Chinese Communist Party as part of the Thousand Talents Program, which the FBI has labeled “non-traditional espionage” against the U.S.

California’s pension fund invested $3.1 billion in Chinese companies, some of which have been blacklisted by the U.S. or have ties to China’s military, Banks said.

“What is unusual is that many of these companies are companies that we’ve blacklisted, that make Chinese military equipment or are responsible for technologies like Hikvision, which is the equipment that’s used by the Chinese for surveillance on the Uighur Muslim population that they’ve been abusing in their own country,” Banks wrote.

It is unclear, however, whether Meng’s resignation is related to his China ties.

A spokesman for Banks said that CalPERS appears to be acting “hush hush about the resignation,” but while “their statement is vague,” it is hopefully a “first step” towards the pension fund addressing Banks’s concerns with investments in companies tied to the Chinese military.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund our adversary’s military. With Yu Ben Meng’s departure, CalPERS now has the opportunity to correct its course and divest from companies within China’s military-industrial complex,” Banks said in a statement provided to National Review. “The United States government must do more to stop the flow of U.S. capital to companies affiliated with the Chinese military.”

Banks has also introduced a bill that would block U.S. investments, including those from pension funds, in China’s military industrial base.

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