A U.S. Congressman for Indiana’s third district is calling on California Governor Gavin Newsom to investigate the investment chief of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.
Rep. Jim Banks, a Republican, has “lots of questions” about Yu (Ben) Meng’s ties to China and CalPERS investments in the country, according to Banks’ Wednesday tweets. “Please explain why someone recruited by a Chinese org described by FBI as a ‘non-traditional espionage’ is making investment decisions for CalPERS,” Banks tweeted at the governor.
The congressman urged Newsom to fire Meng in a separate letter, according to tweets and a Reuters report.
It is unclear why an Indiana representative would launch a campaign against a pension official on the other side of the country. A spokesperson for Banks did not respond to an email and phone call seeking comment.
“This is a reprehensible attack on a U.S. citizen,” CalPERS chief executive officer Marcie Frost said in a statement on the move. “We fully stand behind our Chief Investment Officer who came to CalPERS with a stellar international reputation.”
Banks said on Twitter that he believes Meng “has been directing funds into Chinese companies like Hikvision that make equipment used to oppress #Uighurs. Seems he has ties to the #CCP,” or Chinese Communist Party.
He provided no evidence for his accusations.
Meng is a U.S. citizen who was born in China, according to CalPERS’s website. He worked as the public pension fund’s investment director for asset allocation for seven years, then as the deputy CIO at the Chinese government’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange, which manages more than $3 trillion. Meng returned to America’s largest public retirement system in September 2018 as CIO.
“As with most institutional investors, we’ve had a globally diversified portfolio for decades,” Frost said. “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.”
[II Deep Dive: CalPERS Looks to Shovel More Money Into Private Equity]
Banks sponsored a bill called Blocking Investment in Our Adversaries Act, introduced in May, which aims to block federal pension funds from investing in China and Russia. It has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
This isn’t the first time Meng has come under fire from an unlikely critic for his connections to China. The Epoch Times– a newspaper tied to the Falun Gong, a religious group opposed to the Chinese government and sponsor of the much-advertised Shen-Yun dance shows — published a blistering critique of Meng. It claimed that CalPERS’ investments in Chinese companies and Meng’s work overseas amounted to “deep ties” to the Chinese regime.
Banks echoed those critiques.
“Before becoming the CIO of @CalPERS, the largest pension fund in the US, Mr. Meng was recruited to work in China through the #CCP's Thousand Talents Program (TTP). @FBI describes TTP as a ‘non-traditional espionage’ program...”
The Epoch Times pointed to the same FBI testimony from a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in December 2018.
A spokesperson for Newsom could not be reached for comment on Thursday.