A US congressman has called for the chief investment officer of America's largest pension fund to be fired.
In a series of tweets and interviews, Indiana Congressman Jim Banks has urged for the sacking of CalPERS chief investment officer Yu Ben Meng, claiming Meng has invested some of CalPERS' USD$336 billion under management in Chinese companies which have been blacklisted by the US government.
Taking to Twitter, Banks confirmed he sent a letter to Californian Governor Gavin Newsom calling for Meng to be fired.
"CalPERS CIO Yu Ben Meng has been directing funds into Chinese companies like Hikvision that make equipment used to oppress #Uighurs. Seems he has ties to the #CCP. Sent a letter with lots of questions for @GavinNewsom ... Only 1 left: Will he answer them?"
In a follow-up tweet, Banks said Meng was recruited to work in China through the Thousand Talents Program, which he claimed had been described by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as "a non-traditional espionage program".
"That explains why CalPERS invested [USD]$3.1 billion in 172 Chinese companies: including CSIC, the largest manufacturer of Chinese naval ships; CCCC, which built naval bases in the South China Sea; and Hikvision, the company that provides Xinjiang with its surveillance tools," Banks said.
In a Fox News
interview, Banks doubled down on his comments, and said that while it "was not unusual in and of itself" for USD$3.1 billion to have been invested in Chinese companies, it was unusual which Chinese companies the fund had tipped retirement savings into.
"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 told Fox News.
In a statement provided to Financial Standard, CalPERS chief executive Marcie Frost defended Meng, and said the fund invested in line with the Federal Office of Foreign Asset Control's list of prohibited companies.
"The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), like state pension funds across America, relies on global investments to generate a 7% return that is needed to provide retirement security to our members including firefighters, police officers, school employees, nurses, engineers and judges. We have a fiduciary responsibility to our members and invest accordingly," Frost said.
"CalPERS' investments are made in accordance with all applicable federal and state laws. The federal Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) lists companies in which investment is prohibited. CalPERS has no investment in any of these companies."
She added that the fund's investments in Chinese public equity had actually decreased in recent years, and make up "just over 1% of the fund", and noted its investments in Chinese entities were passive.
"These are passive investments made through leading independent index providers. Institutional investors and public pension funds across America use index providers," Frost said.
"CalPERS chief investment officer Ben Meng, Ph.D. is a globally-respected financial expert and a proud citizen of the United States. His commitment to California's public servants is extraordinary and his integrity above reproach.
"Dr. Meng has CalPERS' full and unwavering support."