Bombshell report: Former head of Permanent Fund Corp. threatened political retribution and launched ‘vitriolic diatribe’ against Board of Trustees

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Former Alaska Permanent Fund Executive Director Angela Rodell promised the Permanent Fund Board of Trustees that she’d make a political firestorm for them when they fired her last December. And she did.

An independent investigation commissioned by the trustees reveals that Rodell threatened political retribution during the meeting in which she was told there would be a vote on her retention.

The key takeaways from the report include:

  • Problems between the board of trustees and Angela Rodell went back to at least 2018.
  • The trustees had brought in an outside executive consultant to help Rodell repair her performance problems.
  • Rodell shocked the trustees by sending out a press release describing the fund’s strategy for continuing operations in the event of a government shutdown in June of 2021, due to budget disputes between the governor and legislative leadership. In that press release, she inserted her opinion into the political dispute.
  • Gov. Mike Dunleavy did not get involved in the decisions or circumstances around Rodell’s firing, and was surprised when he learned of it.
  • Rodell was described by trustees during depositions as threatening political retribution against them.

Rodell, who was paid $389,000 a year, was fired after being given the option by the board to resign during the December, 2021 trustees meeting. Among the concerns were the tensions between Rodell and her staff of investment professionals, and her deteriorating relationship with the board of trustees.

By January, the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee of the Alaska Legislature commissioned an independent investigation to determine if the firing was political, as Rodell had told the committee. Rodell and the committee’s Chairwoman Sen. Natasha von Imhof have a close personal friendship.

Normally, personnel matters are kept confidential. But once the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee became involved, this personnel matter became political. In response to the committee chair creating and using public funds to pay for an investigation into Rodell’s firing, the trustees hired their own law firm to conduct an independent investigation, the results of which were obtained by Must Read Alaska through a public records request.

We received these reports on Tuesday, Sept. 27. On Wednesday, the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee is scheduled to meet at 1 pm to go over the report from the committee’s investigator. The trustees released their report to the committee, but the committee’s own report is not yet available. Documents obtained from the Permanent Fund Corporation show that the trustees’ investigator has asked for, but was not given advance copies of the legislative committee’s separate report, conducted by the law firm of Schwabe Williamson and Wyatt, which will be discussed during Wednesday’s meeting.

The report commissioned by the trustees was completed by attorney John M. Ptacin of Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans, Filippi, an Anchorage law firm. As part of the investigation, the firm observed and recorded the legislative committee’s investigator’s depositions of trustee members, who were asked about Rodell’s history with the board, her performance reviews, specific incidences that led to her firing, and her reaction to being fired.

When asked about Rodell’s reaction to being given a choice to resign or face being fired, trustee Lucinda Mahoney, who was the commissioner of the Department of Revenue at the time, told investigators:

“She [Rodell] said that we were making a big mistake because no one would ever be able to do the job that she did and manage the fund as she did. She told us that there would be political ramifications for our decision. She told us that she was going to hold each one of us individually accountable. It was very unprofessional.”

  • Q: I mean, sitting here today, do you think the outcome was still the correct decision?

A. Yes, especially her closing words. Yeah. I think all the trustees were very taken aback at that, and it probably validated their decisions.

Trustee Corri Feige, who was the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, expanded on the interaction in her deposition, also describing Rodell as unprofessional:

  • Q: So what was Ms. Rodell’s reaction or response to Chair Richards telling her what the board’s direction was going to be?

A: She said okay. And when he said, you know, we will extend you the courtesy — professional courtesy of being able to resign, and she said, nope, and then proceeded to launch into one of the most vitriolic diatribes I have ever heard as a professional. Clearly she was embarrassed and her feelings were hurt, but she immediately went to, I knew you were going to do this. You will all have to wear this decision. You don’t know the political firestorm you will — you have created for yourself, or something to that effect, and then good luck replacing me. I knew I had made the absolute right decision…And for someone not only to — to refuse the courtesy of being able to resign when you are a CEO and then, you know, turning around and — and having, you know, the eruption that she had, that communicates to me that that’s an individual that doesn’t believe that they have anything they need to improve. They don’t have shortcomings. They are blind to where they need to improve their own skill sets. And as a fiduciary of the trust, we can’t — we can’t have that at the helm. We just can’t. So I was — I was very firmly rooted that I had made the right decision.

Board Chairman Craig Richards, when asked how Rodell responded to being fired, said Rodell threatened a political storm:

A: So she first indicated that she thought that this was going to happen and she should have made us have this discussion in open session, and then she said something to the effect of, you don’t know the political storm that you have created for yourself and the consequences. I took it as you are going to reap the whirlwind sort of deal. She made it very clear that she planned to politicize this, and she did.

Trustee Mahoney, when asked why Rodell was terminated, said that Rodell had not handled internal conflicts at the organization well, and that her relationship with the trustees had led to a lack of confidence.

A: Okay. So I kind of already said it, but I’ll restate it. Hopefully I’m consistent. So my vision is that the fund is a 100-billion-dollar fund by the year 2030. And in order for that to happen, we need to have a very high performing team where the investment officers who do the buys and the sells have a very good relationship, cohesive, work in harmony, collaborative with the executive director so that we don’t have attrition issues that could potentially impact returns. I have a vision that the organizations, both the operations organizations and the investment organizations, work really well together as a team. There is all this conflict that is going on there that she hadn’t been able to resolve. And then additionally, the relationship with some of the members of the board was in jeopardy. They had lost confidence in her. So I considered all of that in terms of as we move forward and we really continue to grow, is this the right leader to lead us into the future. Then I also considered the history, you know, the historical performance reviews. And that – that was — that was the foundation of my vote.

Ethan Schutt, who is now the Permanent Fund Board’s chairman, said his reason for voting for Rodell’s termination were due to what he described as an unhealthy relationship between the board and Rodell:

  • Q. So when you said there was discussion about the disconnect between Rodell and the Board of Trustees, what do you mean by that?

A: Several trustees were clear in that they didn’t feel like we had a good, healthy, open dialogue back and forth between Ms. Rodell and the board and that there was sort of an unnatural and unhealthy tension in that relationship. I guess those are my kind of paraphrased summary of the issue.

The report, included below so Must Read Alaska readers can review it in its entirety and come to their own conclusions, summarizes the breakdown of trust between Rodell and her governing board:

“At their 2022 depositions, each trustee further reflected on the Board’s decision to terminate Ms. Rodell’s employment. Trustee Moran, for instance, voted to retain Ms. Rodell, explaining that fund performance constituted eighty- five percent of his decision.  Trustee Feige felt the quarterly meetings were poorly managed and that Ms. Rodell was not an effective communicator—and Trustee Feige was particularly troubled by Ms. Rodell’s foray into government shutdown politics. Trustee Schutt generally noted that Ms. Rodell was unprofessional at the September 2021 meetings and he was concerned that Ms. Rodell’s leadership would lead to the departure of key investment staff. Trustee Schutt took a particularly negative view of Ms. Rodell’s politicization of the fund relative to the potential of a 2021 government shutdown.  Trustee Schutt was also concerned with some of the low scores on Ms. Rodell’s survey, namely from investment staff.  Trustee Richards was highly concerned about the eroding relationship between the Executive Director and investment staff.  Trustee Mahoney sensed that Ms. Rodell was not going to improve as Executive Director and that APFC needed a leader that would grow alongside the fund. Trustee Rieger felt that because a majority of the trustees had lost confidence in the Executive Director, it would be untenable for Ms. Rodell to continue.”

The report also describes what happened during the meeting in which Rodell was fired:

“After the trustees concluded their deliberations, the trustees invited Ms. Rodell into executive session. Chair Richards thanked Ms. Rodell for her service and relayed that the trustees would vote to terminate her employment. Chair Richards offered Ms. Rodell an opportunity to resign in lieu of termination. Ms. Rodell had an unprofessional reaction to the news of her departure. She stated she would not allow the trustees to ‘take the coward’s way out,’ or something to that effect.  She instructed the trustees to vote on her removal in open session and she forecasted a ‘political firestorm’ over her firing, which came to fruition due in part to her conjecture that Governor Dunleavy’s administration orchestrated her firing.

“Ms. Rodell’s conduct during this final executive session provided further evidence to some trustees that their relationship with the Executive Director had deteriorated beyond repair.”

After her firing, Rodell made statements indicating that her removal was political. To the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, which opened an investigation into her firing, she said, “I believe my removal to be political retribution for successfully carrying the board’s mandate to protect the fund and advocate against any additional draws over the (percent of market value) spending rule … which is contrary to Governor Dunleavy’s agenda.”

The independent report commissioned by the trustees states there’s no evidence the firing of Rodell was political, and says that when trustee Corri Feige relayed the news to the governor by phone, Gov. Mike Dunleavy was genuinely surprised.

“There is no evidence to suggest that Governor Dunleavy or some other political actor orchestrated Ms. Rodell’s termination. Ultimately, Ms. Rodell and APFC staff have two important duties. First, they are expected to maximize returns as instructed by the trustees. Second, they are expected to provide lawmakers unbiased information about how legislation could impact to the fund. There is little to no evidence Ms. Rodell played some outsized role in the more tectonic political discussions about the future of the fund and its uses. And there is no evidence that Ms. Rodell’s purported incursions into debates about spending APFC money compelled the Governor or any executive branch official to seek her dismissal. Ms. Rodell’s allegations of political retribution ignore the fact that trustees began raising concerns about her performance in 2018,” the report says.

The depositions of the trustees, conducted by the legislative committee’s separate investigator, support that summary. Even Bill Moran, who voted against Rodell’s firing, said he didn’t think it was political and did not think the governor was involved.

Read the report by the Permanent Fund trustee’s independent investigator:

Read excerpts from the depositions of Permanent Fund Corporation trustees:

47 COMMENTS

  1. Ironically, when the board made the decision to fire her, she proceeded to completely validate their decision.
    Self awareness is quite obviously not her strong suit……

  2. Rodell, who was paid $389,000 a year!!!!! Seriously. Reason alone to fight like hell to keep the job. Salary reviews in order folks. Ill do it for 250k.

    • “Rodell, who was paid $389,000 a year!!!!! Seriously. Reason alone to fight like hell to keep the job…….”
      And good reason to expect the very best who understands the mission completely and moves successfully and steadily. Apparently Ms. Rodell didn’t achieve the goal of improving trust and cooperation.
      She should have taken the offer of resigning gracefully.

    • $389k to manage a 60 billion dollar portfolio? No wonder Rodell was the best they could find.

      A true professional would earn at least quadruple the salary (more likely 10x)…plus lots of high value incentives for good performance.

  3. If those making a living off government assistance won’t work, then the prominent and government employees can at least fill food and hospitality positions by their teens and college age young adults in to work. Be
    nice to see for a change subway, taco bell, mcd’s, arby’, kfc, are not hiring. I know hillside, huffman
    , sandlake, jewel lake, west lagoon, turnagian, lakehood, geneva woods, scenic foothill, you all got silver spoon teens and young adults needing to be working.

  4. In the period that Angela Rodell was the executive director of the APFC, our fund experienced phenomenal growth. Under her stewardship the fund grew from roughly 50 billion, to 81 billion dollars. All Alaskans benefited.

    Think about that.

    If I were a board member I’d be less concerned about petty personnel issues and much, much more concerned about the performance metrics my executive director achieved.

    Rodell predicted the firestorm that did result from her termination- one more time she was correct. Alaskans do pay attention to such things, and they wanted answers.

    The fact that the better part of a year has passed and the board has not found a replacement does not reflect well on the board, or their decisions. The Dunleavy administration is now full of dozens (over 40) of vacancies in high level positions throughout AEA and AIDEA. This is telling. Professionals are very careful about not working for second tier type people. When Dunleavy hired Ben Stevens as his top guy after all the unprofessional things he’d done, that set the tone.

    Our fund has lost billions of dollars since Rodell left. We will never know if she would have avoided those billions in losses as the Biden administration has worked so hard to destroy the US economy.

    • Took me a whole 2 seconds to think about that. The fund grew fantastically during a period when every other fund also grew fantastically. Then Trump left office and Biden took over and everyone out there lost billions. Her being in that position and leaving that position coincided with a great economy and then a recession.
      No we will not know if she and her arrogant “brilliance” would have saved the PFD ….but then narcissistic people usually try to get the credit that others work hard for. Which is probably why they fired her because of her inability to work with her staff.

    • If you were a board member of a multi million corporation you’d know the importance of having faith in the person leading that corporation.

      Regardless of how well said person performed. Especially if they were publicly dabbling in politics.

      It’s remarkably disingenuous to lay Perm Fund losses at her dismissal. In the past 18 months the economy has been under assault by a corrupt geriatric pervert determined to bring down western civilization. Everyone has suffered major losses.

    • M, sorry, but she did not “predict” the firestorm. She and Natasha Von Imhof created it. Rodell’s unprofessional behavior is reason alone to fire her. What you call “petty personnel issues” impacts all and creates a distraction that relegates the mission to second place and makes good professionals leave the organization. Implying that Rodell could have avoided the loss in the fund in my opinion is wishful thinking and deliberately ignores the fact that all investments have suffered under the Biden administration. You bemoan that positions are going unfilled and blame it on the governor, when you know well that ALL areas in this country are having issues hiring. This should have been an internal fund matter, but Mrs. Rodell decided that she is better and most important and has removed any doubt about her vindictive narcissistic personality.

    • “A rising tide raises all boats”. A dart thrown at a list of stocks could have done as well during her tenure.

      • Try comparing our PF with other funds, rather than your dart theory and has nothing backing it up Marlin. Further, any comparison would need to look at constraints on the funds being compared, like what sort of investments are allowed.
        That said, who predicted that “rising tide?” You really don’t have a clue here Marlin.

        • During that period the stock market went through a historic growth period. Many people just let their funds “ride” and did very well.

          I do have a clue as far as investments go. My pipeline money went into BP stock as I remember around $10 a share. I was fortunate to be able to be a purchaser of rental properties during the crash and in addition to conventional stocks, earlier this year I got out of junior mining stocks at a substantial return.

          Obviously, nobody predicts investments 100% accurately. I was speaking what the end result was for the majority invested during a particular time frame.

    • “In the period that Angela Rodell was the executive director of the APFC, our fund experienced phenomenal growth. Under her stewardship the fund grew from roughly 50 billion, to 81 billion dollars. All Alaskans benefited.

      Think about that……..”
      I did, and I was previously defensive for her. After reading these testimonies, especially about the offer for a graceful resignation, I fully accept the board’s votes. The markets were as much or more of a factor than Ms. Rodell’s leadership, and achieving stated goals of unit cohesion and cooperation are as important as bottom line results in a bull market where the rising tide floats all boats.

    • You just described a Trump economy vs. a joey economy.

      As for Rodell, it sounds like good riddance to bad rubbish.

    • What didnt lose value under Biden? We can be very confident the current disaster impacting the global economy is the reason, not a single persons dismissal. Not saying she was not intelligent or good at her job but a govt job paying almost 400k….nope move on, unless your salary is tied to performance than ok we can make that work with caps on earnings and lossses.

    • The Permanent Funds increase and decrease is mostly the result.of the DOWS increase and decrease, and not one board director. That fund is so diversified that a Monkey could be the director, and get the same high and low results . Rodell was like the Rooster taking credit for the Sun coming up. The increase was due to The Trump years, anyone invested then made money, even Bitcoin, and the monkeys who owned one. The Trump economy was a repeat of the Reagan years.

    • Do you manage a multi million dollar corporation? Do you have a clue what’s involved?

      “Fair”, a bogus and mentally weak term, is in the eye on the holder. And the earner.

      • Multi-billion dollar fund.

        But yeah, she made WAY WAY less than she would have for a similar fund if she were on Wall Street.

    • “…….How do you spend $30,000 each month?…….”
      You don’t. You invest it, which shouldn’t be difficult for an executive managing an investment fund. Your focus illustrates the difference in one who spends everything they get from one who uses money to make more money. Amazing as it might sound, or as most Americans live, it’s not a race to spend it as fast as you get it.

    • Compensation is valued on the level of financial responsibility. She was charged with managing a $70 Billion portfolio. Some could make the argument that she’s actually underpaid.

      She’s nuts, and someone you don’t want managing your checkbook, let alone 70 B.

  5. Regardless of performance, people at her level are responsible to the board that appointed them. Clearly she did not have their trust.

    I’m curious what steps, if any, were taken by the board to mitigate the miscommunication issues.

    No matter how well she performed, if she was losing her people it was gonna crash sooner or later. I’ve worked for people like this before. They were so toxic they ended up crashing their businesses.

    If the board relieved her, they had reasons (good or bad) to think she was gonna do more long term harm than good.

  6. Rodell is an incorrigible tyrant and megalomaniac. On the same order as Cathy Giessel when she was President of the Senate.

  7. Let me get this straight: an ally and cohort of Natasha “Daddy OWNS this state and he left it to me in his will” Von Imhoff, herself a student of the “Princess Lisa” school of political theory (ie, the rest of you serfs need to shut up and obey), did not handle losing gracefully, her position of power?

    Shocking.

  8. Geez, lemme think back… where has this sorta thing happened before…? Oh, now I remembered! We saw it happen in Washington DC, in 2017, when FBI director James Comey was fired. Boy, was HE hopping mad!

    Good ol’ FBI founding director J. Edgar Hoover, though, reportedly had his own office’s file drawers bulging with the nasty dirt on DC’s elected malefactors (all fairly elected, too, except maybe Jack Kennedy and a few others), so he managed to ride out his career until his mortal life was ended. And for being a team player, particularly after Kennedy’s assassination, J. Edgar was rewarded by having a monstrously large federal building named after him!

    Lesson, for Rodell, Comey, and other such entitled government officials: either take your hat or purse and leave office quietly, or let it leak out that you have collected incontestable, videotape evidence that several Moscow prostitutes actually peed for Donald Trump (or for Dunleavy, or for whomever) on Barack Obama’s Moscow hotel bed.

  9. Howdy Bob, one way she could spend that money is to donate money to the campaigns of the people who she said would be politically angry with her firing. When the Permanent Fund is considered to be the Piggy Bank of the Walker, Geissel, von Imhof, Democrat Party, and traitor RINOS. We as Citizen Shareholders of the Permanent Fund are downgraded to Alaskan SERFS.

  10. We have several threads of possible problems here. First of all, the Fund’s “phenomenal growth” was due in large part to a stock market that was surging upward. Funny ting about stock market gains – they can be erased so easily. So we really don’t have performance metrics for Ms. Rodell in a less than optimal situation via the stock market. Second point has to do with the personal conflicts that were evidently present from at least 2018. In the corporate world, personal conflicts at a high level can tear apart a company, even if some in that management team are so gifted. From the evidence presented here, there is reason to fear that these conflicts could eventually adversely effect the management and financial health of the Fund. There does appear to have been a lack of meaningful dialogue from probably both sides. On the third point we have a fund director who was friends with a powerful member of the Alaska Legislature in State Senator Natasha von Imof. There is a conflict of interest here in two parts. Senator von Imhof is a co-chair of the Walker campaign committee and so has a vested interest in somehow involving Governor Dunleavy, whom Walker is campaigning against. In the second part, being a friend of Ms. Rodell’s, Senator von Imhof would naturally prefer to see her friend completely exonerated and a “victim of foul play” by whatever means necessary. The reluctance the share the upcoming report conclusions with the Fund’s law firm also brings to mind questions as to its objectivity. What kind of report will we get? In the words of Han Solo, I have a bad feeling about this.

    • Well said, Sheila.
      If I may add a point regarding the conflict of interest with Sen. Natasha von Imhof. One can only wonder, given Ms. Rodell’s actions and unprofessional behavior coupled with her close friendship with Sen. von Imhof, if it indirectly provided Natasha undue insight and influence into the inner workings of the fund. The unilateral press release by Ms. Rodell, attempting to put pressure on the governor, comes to mind.

  11. WOW!!! … What an ego that A-Rodell has. I can only imagine the toxic environment that type of narcissistic person brings to an organization. Smoking her was most likely the best decision the Board made with regards to her personal // professional deficiencies. Let her go experience her own personal desires and fantasies as a … “Wolf-Mama of Wall Street” in NY.

  12. This is an at will position; if there were no good reason to fire her it could still be done without explanation. We have spent a lot of time and money because she is connected and has powerful friends.

  13. Facts matter, Ms. Rodell.
    More than anything, let’s be hateful for the impartial process, which puts this issue finally to rest

  14. I think firing her because she had personal conflicts or stated the obvious in public, seems petty. Base her tenure on performance of the fund. Maybe the conflict was jealousy or just woke think.

    Trump proved you can be unpopular but do a great job.

  15. The s&p index from 2015 to 2021 went up 128% Investing 50 billion in s&p index fund 11/20/2015 you would have 114 billion in 12/31/21.Think about that.

    • Such a great observation. All the advisors and investment fees, the salaries of PFD staff, the dedicated building in Juneau and its attendant operation and maintenance costs, travel and on and on would have been left in the corpus. If it had been placed in the S&P Index as you say, by two staffers in the Dept of Revenue the Permanent Fund would be almost double what it is today. Boring but successful
      But then what would people like Von Imhof, Josephson, Sponholz have to talk about? I wouldn’t trust any of the 3 to balance my checkbook. They couldn’t care less about Alaskans. What they care about is the political oneupsmanship, “ the game”. This time it blew back in their faces.

  16. All the comments above (and the piece, Suzanne) leave out the collusion between Natasha von Imhof and Angela. Two birds of a feather – Oh the GREEDa and the ENTITLEMENTa, I just. can’t. fathom. it.

    Who do they think they are? This state is NOT owned by them. They are both servants of the people. Imhof’s castigation of the Governor for this needs to be remembered when she tries to run for governor. She allowed herself, and a legislative committee, to become political pawns for a woman who has had relational problems since her days at a local law firm. Von Imhof is virtually cut from the same cloth – absolutely no relationship skills – so I suspect Natasha will not Rogoff, and will be a millstone around Alaska’s neck for a long time.

  17. “When in doubt, call BDO.”

    Offices are in Anchorage. Forensic accounting.

    Hire someone smarter than you. Better hurry.

    Before you are standing there with nothing.

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