State News

Ex-treasurer defends new job at investment firm

Posted November 13, 2009 2:29 p.m. EST
Updated November 13, 2009 6:54 p.m. EST

— Former State Treasurer Richard Moore on Friday defended his new job with an investment firm that began doing business with the pension fund he oversaw before he left office.

The State Treasurer's Office said Friday the pension fund committed last year to invest $500 million in San Diego-based Relational Investors. Moore left office in January and became a managing director at Relational in April.

"On the surface, it's just not a pleasant picture," said Jane Pinsky, director of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform. "It is not illegal, but to use the governor's words, it may not 'pass the smell test.'"

The State Employees Association of North Carolina, which frequently criticized Moore for taking campaign contributions from investment firms, slammed him again Friday for his ties to Relational.

"Multi-million dollar investments of state retiree money with firms that in turn gave favors or campaign contributions to Richard Moore or his staff seem to be the legacy of his tenure as treasurer," said Ardis Watkins, legislative director for SEANC.

Moore said he fielded numerous private-sector job offers before taking the job with Relational. He said he respected the firm and didn't get the job because of the pension fund investment.

"I haven't done anything wrong. There was never any quid pro quo. I've followed the law," he told WRAL News in a phone interview.

He said he obtained an advisory opinion from the state Ethics Commission before taking the job, and the panel found his employment at Relational wouldn't violate any ethics rules.

He also said he doesn't solicit business from the State Treasurer's Office in his new position, and he won't do so in the future.

"I believe the work I did as treasurer and our performance should speak for itself. Why should I be prohibited from taking a job at something I'm good at?" he said.

A policy adopted in September by his successor, Treasurer Janet Cowell, prohibits employees who leave the office from doing  business with the state for two years.

To date, the pension funds have invested $437 million of the $500 million commitment with Relational, and the value of that investment is up more than 22 percent since the beginning of 2009.

The state's pension funds are valued at $65 billion overall.

Relational founder Ralph Whitworth said he hired Moore because of the pension fund's status as a top performer, not as a favor.

"I realized some might raise a question. That's unfortunate. This was nothing here other than straightforward business," Whitworth said.