US Congressman calls for CalPERS CIO to be fired over ‘long and cozy’ relationship with China

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A United States congressman has called for the country’s biggest pension fund, CalPERS, to fire its chief investment officer over what he described as a “long and cozy” relationship with China.

Republican Indiana congressman Jim Banks called for Yu Ben Meng to at least be investigated in a letter to California governor Gavin Newsom, Reuters reported.

Meng began working at CalPERS as a portfolio manager in 2008, and rejoined as CIO in 2019 after three years as deputy CIO of China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange.

Banks wrote, “Governor Newsom, if it were up to me, I would fire Mr Meng immediately,” according to the Reuters report.

He added, “At the least, I think a thorough investigation of Mr Meng’s relationship to the Chinese Communist Party and a comparison of CalPERS investments in Chinese companies before and after Mr Meng’s 2008 hiring are both warranted.”

Meng is a US citizen who was born in China.

CalPERS CEO Marcie Frost said in a statement to Reuters, “This is a reprehensible attack on a US citizen.

“We fully stand behind our Chief Investment Officer who came to CalPERS with a stellar international reputation.”

Banks’ letter comes a few days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out CalPERS during a speech calling for states to be vigilant against local threats “with consequences for our foreign policy”.

He said, “California’s pension fund… is invested in companies that supply the People’s Liberation Army that puts our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at risk,” the Reuters report said.

It added that Banks specifically criticised CalPERS’ investments in China’s Hikvision, whose surveillance equipment is used in detention camps for China’s minority Uighurs.

The letter also criticized the fund for holding shares of China Communications Construction Co, which has helped build naval bases for Beijing in the South China Sea, it said.

CalPERS’ Frost defended the holdings by saying, “We’ve had a globally diversified portfolio for decades.

“This is a politically opportunistic attempt to force us to divest, undermining our ability to perform our fiduciary duty to provide retirement security to California’s public employees.”

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