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We Build Alaska

Permanent Fund board member set up meetings between money managers and her billionaire father, records show

Multiple emails obtained by the Landmine show that Ellie Rubenstein, vice-chair of the Permanent Fund Board of Trustees, set up meetings between staff at the state-owned corporation that manages the Permanent Fund and her own business associates.

One of those meetings, held in London in November 2023, was between a Permanent Fund corporation investment analyst and her billionaire father, David Rubenstein.

David Rubenstein is co-founder of the Carlyle investment firm, which already manages some $800 million of the nearly $80 billion in holdings controlled by the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC). Rubenstein is also a limited partner in his daughter Ellie’s private equity fund, Manna Tree.

The emails also show that Ellie Rubenstein attempted to facilitate meetings with APFC chief investment officer and the president of Churchill Asset Management, who also happens to be an investor in her fund, Manna Tree.

Ellie Rubenstein was appointed to the Permanent Fund Board of Trustees in 2022 by Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska). Her position on the six-member board that manages Alaska’s sovereign wealth fund gives her immense power and influence on how the fund is managed. The emails raise serious questions about the numerous conflicts of interest Rubenstein has as part of her role on the Permanent Fund board – and whether she is trying to steer additional money to her father’s firm, or steer money to firms that have invested in her own fund.

Permanent Fund trustees are subject to the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.

Sec. 39.52.010. Declaration of policy states:

(4) a fair and open government requires that executive branch public officers conduct the public’s business in a manner that preserves the integrity of the governmental process and avoids conflicts of interest

Sec. 39.52.120. Misuse of official position states:

(a) A public officer may not use, or attempt to use, an official position for personal gain, and may not intentionally secure or grant unwarranted benefits or treatment for any person

In a February 5 email about the London meeting, Allen Waldrop, director of private equity investments for the corporation, told other APFC executives that “there was no intention to spend any broader time with broader Carlyle in advance.”

“[B]ut Ellie arranged a meeting between [analyst] Catherine [Hatch] and DMR [David Rubenstein] and coordinated with Catherine directly. That was not something we discussed in advance nor did we plan when we arranged the trip,” Waldrop wrote.

Waldrop’s email was was in response to a previous message from Marcus Frampton, chief investment officer for APFC. Frampton’s communication with Waldrop highlighted several red flags that were raised during a conversation he had with Rubenstein at a Miami investor conference in January.

In his message, Frampton laid out his concern about the meeting between Catherine Hatch and David Rubenstein. “Trustee Rubenstein for the first time I’ve heard argued that ‘Catherine Hatch should be fired’…,” Frampton wrote. He went on to say that Ellie told him that David Rubenstein was “unimpressed with Catherine” and that she “told me that Allen [Waldrop] or I should be meeting with her father not an analyst.”

Waldrop, in defense of Hatch, wrote, “Ellie knows Catherine and knows that she is an analyst with limited professional experience (which should be obvious because she is an analyst) and arranged the meeting anyway. Stating the obvious, but I would not expect one of the pioneers of the buyout market who is also one of the wealthiest people in the US [David Rubenstein] to be impressed with an analyst with a couple year’s experience. I would not expect him to be impressed with me either. Our goal when we meet firms is not to impress them.”

Frampton also describes a meeting he had with Carlyle’s CEO Harvey Schwartz in Miami. That meeting, he says, was indirectly facilitated by Ellie Rubenstein. Frampton says the meeting was setup by Lara Clarke, a senior relationship manager for Carlyle. Frampton says Clarke was introduced to them by Ellie last May, presumably at Governor Mike Dunleavy’s (R – Alaska) Sustainable Energy Conference, which she attended.

Frampton wrote that in the meeting he told Schwartz “we [APFC] have a very expansive and robust relationship, considering that Carlyle Group manages over $500 million of APFC assets.” Frampton said Schwartz responded that he “doesn’t think its expansive and robust” and that he hopes to do more business with the APFC in the future.

One of the more glaring things Frampton wrote was that “Trustee Rubenstein told me that I should know that Chair [Ethan] Schutt will not be reappointed by the Governor when his term is up this June.”

Ethan Schutt, the board chair, and Trustee Craig Richards, have pushed back and expressed concerns with Rubenstein’s plan to grow the fund to $100 billion by investing more in private equity.

Governor Dunleavy’s office has not responded to a request for comment.

Responding to Frampton, Deven Mitchell, CEO of the APFC, wrote, “Thanks for keeping us in the loop. I believe you handled this difficult interaction as professionally as possible.”

In a phone interview with the Landmine, Ellie Rubenstein denied setting up any meetings with her father or other firms and APFC staff. “I have made introductions but I follow the rules. I have nothing to do with investment decisions,” she said.

But other emails show that Rubenstein attempted to setup meetings with Ken Kencel, the president and CEO of Churchill Asset Management. Kencel previously served as a managing director for the Carlyle Group and, according to an email sent by Rubenstein, is an investor in her private equity firm Manna Tree.

On October 3, Rubenstein sent Kencel an email from her Manna Tree email. In the email she wrote, “I promised you I’d make something happen! Btw all good on APFC? Steve said he sent you to Ross. But I can connect you to our cio Marcus if you need? He is gonna be in Miami in January with me for a week if that helps?”

The email to Kencel from Rubenstein was in response to an invitation to Churchill’s 2023 annual investor meeting. Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Shelia Bair, a former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) were listed as speakers at the conference.

Two days after the email to Kencel, Rubenstein emailed him again, this time to introduce him to Frampton. Rubenstein copied Frampton, Deven Mitchell, and her APFC email address.

After disclosing that Kencel is an investor in her fund, Rubenstein wrote that Kencel “previously had a relationship with APFC and he would like to open doors again and reintroduce the firm. Ken has done a remarkable job as CEO. And has been able to attract some interesting sovereigns as LPs (2 from Australia).”

Frampton responded that he would be happy to chat one day about Kencel’s fund. But follow up emails indicate he did not meet with Kencel. Instead, Kencel met with Ross Alexander, a senior portfolio manager with the APFC.

In October, weeks after the emails to Kencel, Rubenstein spoke at an investor conference in Saudi Arabia. This Landmine article details the remarks Rubenstein made at the conference.

Speaking on a panel, Rubenstein reiterated her plan to grow the Permanent Fund to $100 billion by saying “the only way to pull that off will be to increase private equity.” In response to a question from the moderator about the APFC decision to decrease its private equity allocation to 15% from 19%, Rubenstein said, “Boy was my father not impressed.” She went on to say that she “handed our CIO [Frampton] a $5 billion tactical opportunities bucket.”

Private equity has struggled since interest rates have risen and the cost of money has gone up. This makes the nearly $80 billion Permanent Fund attractive to firms looking for more money to manage. A March 14 Economist article titled, “The private-equity industry has a cash problem,” talked about how private equity distributions have fallen to 11.2% from their highs of 25%. The article also touched on issues with financing, “With interest rates high, arranging financing has been difficult; although valuations fell, they did not plummet.”

In a long email from Frampton to Sebastian Vadakumcherry, chief risk and compliance officer for APFC, Frampton points out Rubenstein’s conflicts of interest and questions her motives. “I think the more serious topic and perhaps more uncomfortable to address are Trustee Rubenstein’s conflicts of interest in the private credit space. As we all know she has made dozens of investment manager referrals in her 18 months on the APFC board. Many of these have been in the private credit space and my team has declined to pursue all of them,” he wrote.

Frampton highlights three of them: Churchill, TCW (a Carlyle subsidiary in which David Rubenstein is the largest equity owner), and Goldman Sachs. Frampton noted that “several of TCW’s senior principals are limited partners in Manna Tree, Trustee Rubenstein’s private equity firm.”

Frampton also references text messages from Rubenstein (the Landmine did not obtain those) where she dismisses Logan Rahn, a portfolio manager for APFC, because “he’s like 25.” After clarifying that Rahn is in his 30s and has worked for APFC for close to ten years, Frampton notes that Rubenstein is “frustrated that Logan is not reviewing Goldman Sachs’ private credit funds more seriously.”

Frampton concluded his email by pointing out several of Rubenstein’s conflicts of interest. “A reasonable person might also ask the question of whether she would be more enthusiastic about APFC personnel handling private credit investments has we elected to invest in TCW, Churchill, or Goldman Sachs private credit funds. A reasonable person might wonder if her current position is some sort of retaliation for rebuffing these investment referrals,” Frampton wrote.

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation declined to provide a comment for this story.

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Shawney
1 month ago

Great reporting Jeff! Will she be rolled or will they roll her?

Rose
1 month ago

Thank you for reporting on this in more detail. I appreciate knowing more about these folks who spend time planning to use others’ billion$ for their personal gain. They’re a different breed for sure.

Media Critic
1 month ago

I agree that this is, indeed, strong reporting. This article and Jeff’s series of articles about Clark Penny deserve my respect, and make me wonder why Jeff continues with his puerile Loose Unit drivel. He could focus on this kind of sophisticated actual investigative journalism and earn more respect, not just mine.

Go Landmine go!
1 month ago
Reply to  Media Critic

Well Landmine, we all owe you a beer This is stellar to being this forward…. now their feet just need to be held to the fire to do something about this shit

Rat Pack
1 month ago

Whatever happened to Alice ?

Great job, btw, stay on this one

Protect our Resources
1 month ago

This is great reporting, but just scratches the surface of what Ellie and her rich daddy want to do with the permanent fund. Vultures circling. Being the daughter of a rich PE guy does not qualify you to serve on such an important board, and this article lays that bare. Unfortunately, Dunleavey is not a far throw on the ethics continuum from these people.

Carol
1 month ago

We need to get rid of these #%^* selfish entitled legislators from stealing from the public !!!!!!

Hmmm
1 month ago
Reply to  Carol

Carol, did you read the piece?

Nonsense watcher
1 month ago

What a bunch of shit. DNR commissioner in bed with Shell; DOT commissioner absent in his duties. Head need to roll. Why is Governor allowing this. State has gone to hell and the Senators are still rating it an A+ in denial.

Michael Eastman
1 month ago

The Guv ain’t “allowing” it.

Hmmm
1 month ago

He appointed Ellie Rubenstein, so, yeah. The Gov -is- allowing it, Michael Eastman.

Michael Eastman
1 month ago

Thanks for continuing the coverage of this story. It would be nice to see this matter better understood by Alaskans BEFORE the attack of the private equity gods starts sucking the life out of the PFD

Plato’s Spawn
1 month ago

Almost everyone who is someone in AK has ties to that board. At least since Frank Murkowski was Gov. Between 8A ANCSA contracts to corps like Raytheon etc ( vehemently defended by Leasa M. , Sullivan and Peltola to shady movement of monies inside of the AK PFC . AK should rank in the top three in corrupt governments. To top it off the steal our dividends . Ridiculous.

Plato’s Spawn
1 month ago

Excellent non biased truth. There’s a lot more going on . Rogoff. F.Murkowski. Gene Peltola. Keep digging.

Sandy Cooter
1 month ago

Schutt the barn door! Is Mike banging Ellie??! Otherwise how does she know confidential pillow talk about Schutt being shown the door?

This carpetbagger has got to go! Forget APFC, you should have asked Big Mike for a comment on this dumpster fire he’s got festering.

Meg
1 month ago

Sorry I know so little about finance. Is the issue here that Rubenstein’s is trying to influence the PF to allow her connections (father, investors) to make money from managing portions of the PF in an unprofitable way (private equity)? What’s the typical role of the Trustees? I assume that it involves some networking and making referrals for investment ideas? Wish this was spelled out better in this and the ADN article. Thanks in advance!

FizzKid
22 days ago

I’m not quite seeing this in the same lense that you are.

This is a level of dedication that you wouldn’t normally find from a Trustee in a SWF / pension fund. Sounds like the investment teams are getting their feet held to the fire and don’t like the level of accountability that Rubinstein is bringing….she is performing her duties well.

Alaskans are ultimately worse off having sub-par investment talent managing their future prosperity. Let’s see what happens.

Juan
16 days ago
Reply to  FizzKid

Ok, who let Gorden Gekko into the chat…