Gabrielle Rubenstein’s Permanent Fund turf-war makes the news at Financial Times

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Michael J. Burns Office Building in Juneau, home of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation.

The dust-up over perceived fiduciary improprieties by one of the members of the Alaska Permanent Fund’s Board of Trustees has made it to one of the most influential publications in the financial world: The Financial Times.

In a news article that appeared Friday, reporter Sun Yu used information provided in the initial story by the Alaska Landmine to analyze and expand on information about the troubles that Gabrielle “Ellie” Rubenstein has found herself in over the past few weeks, revealing staff perceptions that she used undue influence to steer the fund’s investment analysts toward her father’s private equity firm the Carlyle Group.

Yu’s story describes how the professional managers of the fund suspected Rubenstein of trying to steer state investments to friends and family members “while seeking the dismissal of a junior employee who left her father ‘unimpressed,’ according to leaked internal emails seen by the Financial Times and interviews with people with direct knowledge of the fund’s operations.”

Yu describes Ellie Rusenstein as “The daughter of one of the most powerful figures in US finance,” due to her relationship with her father, billionaire David Rubenstein.

Chris Ullman, a spokesman for Ellie Rubenstein, acknowledged to Yu that the trustee had made about 20 referrals of external asset managers to Alaska Permanent Fund staff, but he said she followed established protocols and had not exerted improper pressure. Through Ullman, she denied setting up a meeting between employees and her father, or seeking to have anyone fired.

“She played no role in investment decisions and no capital was deployed to those investment firms,” Ullman said to Financial Times.

That is not how the staff relayed the interactions, however, according to Yu’s reporting, which reinforces the initial documents divulged by the Alaska Landmine, although it appears true that the staff didn’t act on Rubenstein’s advice.

Yu reported that Rep. Cliff Groh, a Democrat from Anchorage, has called for a hearing into the “disturbing conflicts of interest” at the fund.

“The legislature must provide oversight to the Permanent Fund to protect it from the apparent threats it faces, including the risk that investments will be influenced by cronyism instead of what’s best for the fund,” Groh said in a letter to the Legislature.

Yu also reports that since the email messages were leaked to the Alaska Landmine, Rubenstein has sought to ban employees from forwarding internal emails.

The Governance Committee of the Board of Trustees did hold a hastily arranged meeting last week to discuss how to repair the damage done to the reputation of the board by the leaked emails.

After that meeting, the Permanent Fund issued a statement that said, in part, “The Governance Committee affirmed that APFC’s processes and systems are in place to ensure efficient internal operations that support our work on behalf of Alaskans. The Committee and Investment Advisory Group (IAG) members emphasized the importance of defined roles and responsibilities for Trustees and Staff in collaborative processes.” The complete statement is at this link.

“The leaked emails portray Rubenstein as eager to arrange meetings between staff and her business partners in private funds, though these rarely produced concrete results,” Yu reports.

“The unfolding drama at the US’s largest state sovereign wealth fund underscores the governance challenge facing a six-person board comprised mainly of financial laymen. As fortunes have cooled for Alaska’s oil industry, the fund has come under pressure to generate greater returns to meet its obligations,” Yu reports. That might lead to riskier plays.

Since taking a seat on the board, Rubenstein has been focused in increasing the Permanent Fund’s exposure to alternative investments.

Allen Waldrop, director of private equity investments at APFC, said in a February email to colleagues that Rubenstein had arranged a meeting last November in London between her father and a junior analyst, Yu reports.

“This was not something we discussed in advance nor did we plan when we arranged the trip,” wrote Waldrop in the email. After the meeting, Marcus Frampton, the chief investment officer for the Alaska Permanent Fund, said in a separate email that Ellie Rubenstin told him the analyst should be fired because David Rubenstein had been “unimpressed” with her.

This reported action is denied by Chris Ullman, who is Ellie Rubenstein’s personal spokesman and who worked for her father for many years.

Yu reports that the Carlyle Group told him that it had arranged the meeting, which contradicts the version of events demonstrated in the leaked emails.

“In another email in January, Frampton told colleagues that he considered Ellie Rubenstein’s efforts to make connections to private credit managers a ‘conflict of interest,’ deeming it a ‘more serious topic and perhaps more uncomfortable to address.'” According to that email, Ellie Rubenstein had made “dozens upon dozens” of investment managers recommendations. The investment team took a pass on all of them, but among those referrals was TCW, which is a Carlyle-backed asset manager whose principles had invested in Ellie Rubenstein’s equity fund, “Manna Tree,” which invests in food quality and security.

The next quarterly meeting of the Board of Trustees for the Alaska Permanent Fund is May 29 in Utqiagvik. Alaskans may observe the meeting via WebEx. Meeting information can be found here.

APFC was created by the Alaska State Legislature in 1980 as an independent state entity to manage the oil-royalty assets of the Alaska Permanent Fund on behalf of current and future generations of Alaskans and other funds designated by law.

The Alaska Permanent Fund itself is now an $80 billion sovereign wealth fund first established in 1976 by Alaska voters to preserve and convert the State’s non-renewable mineral and oil wealth into a renewable financial resource for generations of Alaskans. Alaskans receive a dividend from the fund annually, through an appropriation by the Alaska State Legislature, which determines the amount that lawmakers think they can give to “shareholders,” after skimming from the statutorily established dividend formula to pay for state government employees.

Other news stories about this developing issue are linked below.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. The appearance of impropriety (where there’s smoke there’s fire) is an excellent reason for her to step down, or be fired from the board of by the board itself or Gov. Dunleavy. Make it happen!

  2. I may have never once agreed with Cliff Groh until now. There does need to be a hearing, maybe more than one. This isn’t the board of hairdressers, this is the Permanent Fund. Clearly these Rogoff-Rubenstein people see Alaskans as a bunch of bumpkins, possibly much as George Soros sees us. Maybe Rogoff will take the entire family flying and we will be rid of them.

    • You are exactly correct. The legislature has done more to deplete the fund than anyone on the board. Between the AIDEA and the Alaska Gasline sucking up cash at crazy rates, we will continue to see the fund decrease.

      • Manda & Robert you both show a mature understanding (not expressed enough) by the few of us Alaskans that should be getting those issues address ASAP or the Peter the Pied Pipers & Swashbucklers will continue the raid our PF !

  3. Certainly appears to be conflicted and should resign or be removed.

    Who appointed her and did it require legislative confirmation?

    • Kenaimike where were you at the last meeting held on the peninsula in Soldotna ? Ellie is ” “The Governance Committee Chair ” Did anyone from our Legislature ever attend any of the Boards meetings I bet not , so If the Legislature gave a tinker’s damn would we get a different result… I think not … I have attended that last Peninsula meeting, (made a plea from my Father’s grave not 3 miles away you should research it in that meeting minutes) but not another peninsula resident did ! So much for Alaskans protecting or influencing any out come of this board or staff of the PF… Pay attention ALASKA

  4. It appears that Senator Sullivan has been the receipient of some large campaign donations from one of the founders of the Blackstone Hedge fund. The PFD’s days are numbereed!

  5. My confidence in the Board has been greatly diminished since Angela Rowell left. She got fired for telling the Governor what Mitchell is saying now. With the markets at record highs there is no economic reason to take on high risk private equity. Maybe Dunleavy is planning for a post Governor job

  6. I hate for burst your bubble but Alaska Permanent Fund is NOT s sovereign wealth fund as you think. Definition of Sovereign Wealth Fund:”A sovereign wealth fund (SWF), sovereign investment fund, or social wealth fund is a state-owned investment fund that invests in real and financial assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate, precious metals, or in alternative investments such as private equity fund or hedge funds. Sovereign wealth funds invest globally. Most SWFs are funded by revenues from commodity exports or from foreign-exchange reserves held by the central bank.” Wikipedia.

    As you know, I spent 14 years 2001-2015 posting at “Alaska Permanent Fund Board Confirmation Committee” that there is not accountability of APFB. Ms. Rubenstein’s antics are typical. APFB hires the investment managers, pick their brains, and make the best Stock Market investments possible. If APFB’s investments do not reap astronomical profits, the investment managers are fired. In the other 49 states which have American Bar Assn. accredited law schools, what APFB do openly could be labeled Insider Trading. In Alaska it is perfectly legal. APFB is such a bad example.

    There is absolutely no accountability of APFB which has now presumably been taken over by Ellie’s father, David Rubenstein. APF is only a front for APFB enriching their private bank accounts.

    APF is now worth $80,433,400,000 5-23-24 ‘https://apfc.org/performance/ at the same time Alaska teachers and Alaska State employees do not even get any kind of retirements.

    Sadly, Alaskans only care about their APF Dividend instead of realizing APFB is ripping all of us off and this Fund is totally unAmerican.

    The values of our great nation are really quite simple. In Alaska there are no “checks and balances” or communication links between public entities.

    Please stop it. We are Americans. APFB should be confirmed by Alaska Legislature immediately.

    We also need any Alaska elected officeholder to be required to be a member, Alaska Bar Assn. Please check our Facebook page “Elect Alaska Attorney General 2026” ‘https://www.facebook.com/groups/697790762401945. There is absolutely no accountability in Alaska. This is why so many Alaskans have left here.

    It is time for us to become Americans.

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