Williams Vote Saves His Position as SCRSIC Chair
By Paul Gable
S.C. Retirement System Investment Commission chairman Reynolds Williams barely escaped having to step down as commission chair Thursday when his vote resulted in a 3-3 tie on a motion by S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis.
Loftis’ motion asked commissioners to remove Williams from the chair while he is under investigation by the S.C. Ethics Commission and S.C. Law Enforcement Division.
“The chairman has an immense amount of responsibility,” said Loftis in discussing the motion. “I don’t think that person, while under a significant amount of investigation, should be chairman.”
See a video clip of Loftis’ statement here >>
Williams is under investigation for an investment deal with American Timberlands, LLC. Williams’ law firm worked on the deal before it was brought to the commission.
Section 9-16-360(B)(4) specifically states, “A fiduciary or employee of a fiduciary shall take no action to use their positions to secure, solicit, or accept things of value, including gifts, travel, meals and lodging, and consulting fees for payment for outside employment, from parties doing or seeking to do business with or who are interested in matters before the fiduciary.”
Williams, in a public statement, insisted he disclosed his firm’s attorney-client relationship (with American Timberlands) from the beginning and publicly recused himself when the vote came up.
Loftis claims the extent of the relationship between Williams’ law firm and American Timberlands was not known when the commission approved the investment. Additionally, minutes of the commission show Williams did not publicly recuse himself from the vote because he was not present when the vote was taken.
Those conflicting statements aside, the section of state law quoted above makes it appear the American Timberlands deal should have never come before the commission for consideration because Williams’ firm received fees for work done for American Timberlands related to the land deal.
Loftis requested a discussion of the Timberlands investment, including a complete discussion about Williams’ involvement with Timberlands, be included on the agenda for the July 19, 2012 commission meeting. Williams, who as chairman sets the agenda, refused. No such discussion took place.
After the agenda was set, Loftis notified fellow members of the S.C. Budget and Control Board, the state agency under which the commission operates, of Williams’ decision. Read Loftis’ letter here: http://www.treasurer.sc.gov/News/B-CLetter-Williams-7-18.pdf
The investment commission is responsible for investing the state’s $25 billion pension fund. Loftis said Thursday, he may not write checks on signed investment contracts with which he does not feel comfortable.
Considering what we now know about Williams’ involvement with American Timberlands and his refusal to allow commission members to discuss this involvement present a strong case that he should step down as chairman until the investigations are completed.