SACRAMENTO — Joseph A. Dear, the chief investment officer who helped guide California's and the country's largest public pension fund out of the Great Recession, has died. He was 62.
Dear died Wednesday in Sacramento after battling prostate cancer since taking an extended leave of absence from the California Public Employees' Retirement System, officials said.
Dear came to California from Washington state, where he headed the State Investment Board, among other jobs.
In March 2009, he joined CalPERS as it reeled from nearly $100 billion in losses in the economic downturn of 2008-09. Dear immediately began a methodical process of restructuring and rebalancing the portfolio, which had plunged to $165 billion just before he arrived in Sacramento. One major task was shifting real estate investments away from high-risk, money-losing residential properties to more conservative commercial and income-producing stakes.
Dear didn't let the steep losses distract him from rebuilding a fund that is responsible for paying benefits to 1.7 million state and local government workers, retirees and their families.
"The system has more than enough cash through contributions and income from investments to meet our present liabilities, so we are in a good position to ride out the current downturn and come out stronger," Dear said in July 2009.
CalPERS' investments were worth $283.5 billion on the day Dear died, having more than recouped all their recessionary losses.
"Joe in a very purposeful way brought the investment portfolio back to basics," said CalPERS Chief Executive Anne Stausboll. "He restructured the portfolio, focusing on what was important and making it more efficient, more streamlined and more manageable."
She also credited Dear with bringing the "professionalism and integrity of the investment office to a higher bar" after CalPERS was racked by a corruption scandal involving a former chief executive, Federico Buenrostro Jr., and a former board member turned investment placement agent, Alfred J.R. Villalobos.
Dear was born in Washington, D.C., on June 7, 1951. He graduated from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., with a bachelor's degree in political economy in 1976.
He subsequently served in a number of positions, including research director for the Washington State Labor Council, director of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, assistant secretary of labor at the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and chief of staff to Washington state Gov. Gary Locke.
While at CalPERS, Dear also served as chairman of the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission Investor Advisory Committee and as a board member of the Pacific Pension Institute.
Dear is survived by his wife, Anne Sheehan, director of corporate governance at the California State Teachers' Retirement System, the nation's second-largest public pension fund. They married in 2012.
Dear had two children, Annie and Ben, from a first marriage.