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Richard Piatt reporting The man in charge of the Utah Retirement System has stepped down after an audit concluded he violated the state's ethics policy. Those findings were revealed in an audit, which became public this week.
The audit uses words like 'ethics violations' and 'conflict of interest', but also underscores the 11-and-a-half billion dollar pension fund is, and always has been safe.
The audit shows some decisions were made on investments for Utah's pension fund without proper approval. Decisions that in some cases made money, but in others, lost money.
Those findings put the Utah Retirement Systems executive director on the defensive at the Capitol. Robert Newman insisted decisions were always made properly, reassuring state employees everything is o-k.
Robert Newman/Utah Retirement Systems Exec. director - "WE LOOK OUT FOR THEIR BEST INTERESTS, THE FUND IS ON AN ACTUARIALLY SOUND BASIS THEIR BENEFITS ARE SECURE AND THAT'S WHAT SHOULD BE IMPORTANT TO THEM. "
But the audit does report a need for better communication between the fund manager and the board of directors, and more oversight of the fund's investment risk.
It also found potential and actual conflicts of interest on the part of the fund's Chief Investment officer Richard Cherry.
Wayne Welch/State Auditor - "WHAT WE SAY WAS A FUND MANAGER THAT INVESTED IN AFFILIATED COMPANIES AND ALSO BOUGHT SERVICES FROM AFFILIATED COMPANIES. "
Those findings sparked a separate audit, as a reported investigations of Cherry by both the state and federal government, into allegations of insider trading. Cherry resigned Wednesday, after being on administrative leave for months, and will not comment further.
Despite evidence of ethical violations, the fund is generally thought of as well-managed, and Mr. Cherry has been praised as an effective fund manager.