The California Public Employees Retirement System, known as Calpers, is the largest public pension fund in the U.S. It manages pension and health benefits for California public employees, retirees and their families. It tends to invest aggressively in equities.
Calpers has had a solid reputation, but like other investing giants, it's confronting some of the worst losses in its history. The organization also has recently seen turnover at the top, leading to speculation about internal turmoil. What's more, Calpers is being rocked by a pay-to-play scandal and a "revolving door" controversy in which former executives have accepted large sums in exchange for placing investments from the fund.
Progressives may feel at home here. Calpers has been an activist on the forefront of many reform issues, notably corporate governance and pushing for executive pay to be tied to performance. Its board is dominated by union players.
If you work on the investment staff, be forewarned that virtually all outside gifts are banned. Don't even think about eating a lunch at a conference sponsored by business partners. And any gift baskets you're sent must be returned to sender. The restrictions are aimed at eliminating any appearance of conflicts of interest in the wake of pay-to-pay scandals.
Calpers might be a huge institutional investor, but it's still the government. To work for Calpers, you must first pass the California state civil service test. Calpers participates in Boomerang, a free job connection registry for California state retirees who want go back to work part-time. The pension-fund giant hasn't been immune to California's fiscal woes. About 170 of the 200 of its investment staff are required to take furloughs three times a month as part of the state's cost-cutting push.