L.A. Now
Live updates: Tour bus collides with big rig in fatal crash in Desert Hot Springs

Longtime trustee of Pimco mutual funds appears to have lost his job

Pimco says William J. Popejoy is no longer a trustee of mutual funds firm, but he and others aren't saying why

William J. Popejoy apparently has lost his longtime position as a trustee of the nearly $2-trillion Pimco mutual funds in Newport Beach, but the usually outspoken financial executive wasn't talking about what happened.

And no one else was, either.

Popejoy, 76, had used a Times interview in March to criticize the "bullying" management style and the reported $200-million annual salary of Pimco founder Bill Gross.

According to a midsummer regulatory filing by the funds, Popejoy resigned as one of the funds' seven trustees. But a later revision of the filing deleted the "resigned" language, showing only that Popejoy no longer was a trustee.

Popejoy, a trustee for 23 years of Pacific Investment Management Co. funds, declined to comment, leaving his lawyer to say that resignation was not a proper word for what had transpired.

"We are in discussions with counsel for the trustees and Pimco to provide a more accurate description of Mr. Popejoy's relationship," said Ronald Rus of Irvine.

Rus would not comment further on the matter, which was first reported Tuesday by online trade publication Fund Director Intelligence.

The law firm advising the trustees, Dechert of Philadelphia, declined to comment, and a spokeswoman for the German financial giant Allianz, Pimco's parent company, did not respond to a request for comment.

Pimco declined to comment directly.

"We greatly appreciate Bill's contributions during his long tenure as a member of Pimco's funds' board of trustees," a spokesperson for the funds said.

Popejoy, the first president of mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac, went on to hold executive roles at several high-profile financial firms. He took a leave from Pimco in 1995 to become chief executive of Orange County, which had filed what then was the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Popejoy's outspoken criticisms of county officials bruised egos during his six-month tenure — a sharp-elbowed brashness that was exhibited in the interview with The Times this year.

"You could hire 2,000 schoolteachers for that money," Popejoy said of Gross' salary. "I don't know what Bill should be paid, but $200 million is not appropriate."

Gross, Pimco's chief investment officer, has often been described as the world's savviest bond investor. But his reputation has been tarnished in recent years by disappointing results at Pimco's core investment vehicle, the Total Return Fund, which Gross personally manages.

As investors pulled out funds, Pimco's total assets fell below $2 trillion in the fourth quarter last year.

Then in January, Gross' heir apparent — Pimco's chief executive and co-chief investment officer, Mohamed A. El-Erian — abruptly announced he was leaving the company.

Subsequent portrayals of Gross' behavior included descriptions of him publicly dressing down key employees and discouraging them from speaking to him or making eye contact. He compared himself at one point to Secretariat, the Triple Crown thoroughbred racehorse, according to one report in the Wall Street Journal.

"I don't know if Secretariat made $200 million a year," Popejoy told The Times in March, characterizing Gross' recent performance as "mediocre."


Twitter: @ScottReckard

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times