North Carolina’s pension fund has invested $225 million since 2007 in Horsley Bridge Partners, a San Francisco investment firm where — according to the state’s former chief investment officer — the spouse of a top executive is also an executor of the ousted state official’s will.
The arrangement raises questions about the adequacy of disclosure requirements for treasury officials dealing with high-flying investment funds and other outside management firms.
The state paid almost $1.5 million in management fees in 2007 and 2008 to Horsley Bridge Partners. A managing director of the firm, Alfred Giuffrida, is married to Pamela Joyner, who is mentioned in the Durham County property records of former Deputy State Treasurer Patricia Gerrick.
Gerrick’s 2006 mortgage mentions a 2005 trust “for the benefit” of Joyner and three other people. Gerrick owns her home at 4723 Knights Arm Drive in Durham as trustee of the Patricia A. Gerrick 2005 Revocable Trust, according to the warranty deed.
Gerrick, who was fired from her job last month, said she didn’t see any potential conflict in the arrangement.
“It’s not for her [Joyner’s] benefit,” Gerrick said. “She and about three other people are the executors of my will. She’s not getting any money from me, and I’m not getting any money from her.”
State Treasurer Janet Cowell, who took office in January, hasn’t said why Gerrick was fired, though documents released in an open records request filed by Carolina Journal and other media organizations show that Cowell terminated Gerrick after “a review of various agency records” and “other concerns.”
Joyner and Giuffrida did not return repeated phone calls.
James Cox, a law professor at Duke University, said the relationship between Gerrick and Joyner raises questions.
“It certainly is something that raises eyebrows and needs explaining,” Cox said. “I find that very curious.”
The state’s $225 million investment in Horsley Bridge Partners since 2007 is the sixth-largest investment among the 30 different private equity companies it’s invested in over that time.
Joyner also works for Avid Partners, which was the placement agent that helped arrange a $150 million investment in 2005 from the state pension fund in a fund run by Apollo Investment Management.
Placement agents have been involved in an alleged kickback scandal in New York involving the Empire State’s pension fund, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is considering banning investment firms from paying placement agents to get government business.
In an e-mail, Gerrick said the use of Avid Partners as placement agent followed due-diligence policies in effect at the time.
Heather Franco, a spokeswoman for Cowell, said in a statement that “this administration has never used placement agents and has put into place policy that requires full disclosure of the use of placement agents by fund managers.”
Gerrick did not disclose her relationship with Joyner as a potential conflict of interest in the statements she filed with the State Ethics Commission. But Gerrick said the treasurer’s office knew about her relationship with Joyner.
“I fully disclosed my relationship with Pamela Joyner to the treasurer,” Gerrick said.
Richard Moore, the previous state treasurer who hired Gerrick in 2004 and backed a bill last year in the General Assembly boosting her salary to $340,000, did not return a phone call. Moore now works for the San Diego-based firm Relational Investors. An employee with Relational Investors said Moore did not want to comment.
Cowell’s spokeswoman Franco said Gerrick’s relationship with Joyner was “not something that we can speak to” because it is not required to be disclosed on statements Gerrick filed with the State Ethics Commission.
Cox, the Duke law school professor, said that if the state’s ethics laws do not require relationships such as Gerrick’s to be disclosed, “That shows you the general weaknesses that we have in North Carolina about the disclosures.”
Horsley Bridge, founded in 1983, invests in venture capital and other opportunities and manages more than $6.6 billion in assets. Giuffrida has worked at Horsley Bridge since 1995. Joyner, who married Giuffrida in 2004, helped found Avid Partners, which advises private equity firms. She has been on the board of Dartmouth College and the San Francisco Ballet Association and has an MBA from Harvard.
In 2008, Joyner donated $4,000 to Cowell’s campaign. She also made a donation in Gerrick’s honor to the SECU Family House, a Chapel Hill nonprofit where Gerrick served on the board.
“I have no financial relationship with Pamela Joyner in any form or fashion,” Gerrick said. “She is someone who I trust.”
The other people mentioned in Gerrick’s mortgage are Mary Drummer, Terry Grimes, and Allison Grant Williams.
Gerrick attended an annual limited partners meeting held by Horsley Bridge over three days in May 2008 at the Calistoga Ranch, a luxury resort in Napa Valley, Calif. Gerrick was reimbursed $665.75 by the department, including $486 for airfare and $70.75 for meals on the trip.
Horsley Bridge paid for her stay at the resort, which Gerrick valued at about $600, according to state records. The Web sites for Calistoga Ranch and the nearby Solage Resort, which also housed attendees at the meeting, indicate that nightly room rates at Calistoga Ranch start at $550 and go as high as $2,200. Rooms at Solage Resort range from $405 to $875 a night. Meals are not included in lodging expenses.
Sarah Okeson is a contributor to Carolina Journal.