The market is up, the market is down, but that’s the least of worries for the New Mexico State Investment Council. SIC Chief Investment Officer Gary Bland resigned last year following a series of “pay to play” scandals involving investment firms and consultants close to Gov. Bill Richardson. Those bad bets lost hundreds of millions of dollars while enriching a few lucky middlemen. Steven Moise, 65, is now charged with restoring the SIC’s reputation and growing its $14 billion portfolio. A self-described “fiscally conservative Democrat,” Moise’s career spans from banker to rancher (outside Santa Rosa) to lawyer (Sutin, Thayer and Brown) to, most recently, University of Colorado fundraiser. Moise—who calls himself a “friend” of Richardson’s, but not a member of the governor’s “inner circle”—took Bland’s old job on April 1.
SFR: You’re new on the job, and the state Legislature has changed the makeup of the SIC board to take power from the governor. What should the public know about the new SIC?
I want the public to know that our goal is to restore its trust in the
of the State Investment Office.
Do you share several board members’ concerns about state Attorney General Gary King’s pace to recover money lost in ‘pay to play’ investments?
I have met with Gary three times since April 1, most recently [on May 12]. He is willing and anxious to help us pursue recoveries.
Have institutional investors been Wall Street’s suckers all these years?
I don’t know.
What would you call it? For years, Wall Street hosted conferences on how [subprime mortgage securities] worked, with representatives of state pension and investment funds going and being told what a great deal these [products] were; a few years later it blows up, and it turns out Wall Street was short-selling those same investments, knowing they were no good.
What I’m trying to do is answer your question thoughtfully. I don’t know whether institutional investors took the word of Wall Street, so to speak, or whether they drilled down, analyzed these investments thoroughly and made thoughtful decisions based on their own analysis. It would appear those comments have some validity. But I don’t know what they did or not. Neither do you. We don’t know. It makes us think twice about what we all invest in.
Who is responsible for determining whether outside investment consultants are free from conflicts of interest?
We are. The staff is. And the Council is responsible for making sure that the staff does its job properly…
Sixty percent of the SIC’s portfolio is in equities. With the shakiness in the stock market, is that appropriate?
We are now doing a study so we can present to the Council on May 25 a new asset allocation model. That number will be reduced. We need more of a focus in the international arena. We might see more of it going there. We might see more of it going into fixed-income investments [such as government bonds], to create more of a defensive posture.
Some foreign stock exchanges make Wall Street look like the tightest-run ship you’ve ever seen.
I think the well-informed investment professionals who are advocating for an increase in the international sector are comfortable with the strength of the companies whose stocks they might want us to buy.
How important is it to look back and figure out what happened?
I think it’s important. He who knows only his own generation remains only a child.