L.A. venture capitalist pleads guilty

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Los Angeles venture capitalist and philanthropist Elliott Broidy pleaded guilty Thursday to charges that he paid $1 million in gifts to New York public pension officials to win $250 million in investment capital for his private equity fund.

Broidy, 52, faces a possible prison sentence of up to four years at his sentencing, scheduled for June 10.

New York Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo characterized Broidy’s actions as bribery, saying he sent a top state official and relatives on luxury trips to Israel and Italy and paid the rent and hospital bills of a bureaucrat’s girlfriend to get the investment money for his Century City firm, Markstone Capital Partners.

Broidy even bankrolled a movie production for the brothers of one official, authorities said.

“This is an old-fashioned payoff of state officials,” Cuomo said. “This is effectively bribery.”

Broidy’s New York guilty plea is the latest development in a series of inquiries into investment decisions by public pension funds including the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which has made $50 million in investment commitments with Broidy’s company.

Over the last decade, Broidy and his wife made nearly $900,000 in campaign contributions, including donations to two CalPERS board members, to officials who were seeking or held statewide political offices at the time.

CalPERS says it is evaluating its partnership with Markstone and looking at its legal options. In the meantime, it has asked a Washington legal advisor, who is conducting an investigation of the pension fund’s relationships with investment managers, to look into Markstone’s dealings with the board and staff, CalPERS spokesman Brad Pacheco said.

Cuomo said Broidy made a series of payments to New York state comptroller office officials and their relatives to get $250 million in investments from the New York State Common Retirement Fund from 2002 to 2006. The money included $300,000 for a movie called “Chooch” being produced by the brothers of David Loglisci, the New York fund’s chief investment officer.

Loglisci is one of four New York pension officials suspected of involvement and has pleaded not guilty to charges filed by Cuomo’s office. The others were not identified.

Broidy also paid $380,000 in “sham” consulting fees to a family member of another state official and gave more than $90,000 to the girlfriend of a third official to cover living expenses, rent and hospital bills, Cuomo said. Broidy gave an additional$44,000 to a relative of the girlfriend and spent as much as $75,000 to cover travel expenses incurred by a comptroller’s office official and family members on luxury trips to Israel and Italy.

As part of an agreement with Cuomo, Broidy and Markstone will forfeit $18 million in management fees paid by the New York pension and cooperate in the investigation.

On Tuesday, Broidy resigned as chairman of the private equity fund, which specializes in corporate buyouts of companies in Israel.

Until May, he also served as one of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s appointees at the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions system, helping to make investment decisions for that system’s $12.8-billion portfolio.

In 2003, Broidy mounted a major selling effort to get CalPERS to invest in his firm, according to documents released by CalPERS that report meetings between investment pitchmen and board members. Letters from Broidy to board members indicate that Markstone sought to leverage the New York investment into business with CalPERS, which eventually agreed to invest $50 million in Markstone.

Broidy even brought New York state Comptroller Alan Hevesi with him to a meeting in Sacramento with CalPERS staff to pitch Markstone in 2003. One of those meetings was with then-state Treasurer and CalPERS board member Phil Angelides. Broidy offered to bring Angelides and other California officials to Israel to see its economic strength.

Broidy also cultivated another influential ally at CalPERS, then-state Controller Steve Westly, who also was on the CalPERS board. Broidy had met privately with Westly at least half a dozen times by October 2004, according to Westly’s desk calendar. One of those meetings was at Broidy’s office in Tel Aviv.

Broidy invoked Westly’s name in letters to other board members pitching Markstone. Westly has maintained that he made investment recommendations based solely on their potential for generating returns.

In Los Angeles, Broidy is known for his philanthropic work on behalf of the arts, education and the Jewish community.

He resigned from the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions Board in May after receiving a letter from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission calling on him to turn over financial records and disclose whether he had done business with any company that had come before his board. Broidy has been served with four subpoenas from the agency since then, according to documents filed by the SEC in federal court.

One SEC subpoena called on Broidy to disclose all of his contacts with Alfred J.R. Villalobos, a middleman who has received at least $70 million in fees to help investment managers get business at CalPERS and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System.

Broidy also came under scrutiny for a vote he cast while on the fire and police pensions board. In July 2007, he voted to invest $30 million in a fund managed by CIM Group Inc., which is an investor in Markstone. CIM invested $500,000 in the firm in 2004, causing some city officials to voice concerns about a possible conflict of interest.

In recent weeks, CIM’s description of its ties to Broidy drew criticism from a top L.A. pension official. In e-mail correspondence obtained by The Times, the top executive of the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions system told CIM executives that they had not provided complete information about their connections to Markstone in the investor section of the company’s website.

Michael Perez, general manager of the Fire and Police Pensions, told CIM in a Nov. 17 e-mail that it had wrongly informed investors that Broidy was not on the pension board when CIM invested in Markstone. (Broidy joined the board in 2002.) Perez also told CIM that it had incorrectly advised its investors that Broidy had not voted on CIM in 2007.

“I understand this information is not for the public,” Perez wrote. “But it is being seen by other investors and should be accurate.”

CIM responded by telling Perez that its error was inadvertent and that it would immediately correct the information. The company said it had relied on information in a city news release posted on a blog and the wrong set of meeting minutes from the Fire and Police Pension system.