The Department of Justice has dropped its investigation into the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System, said Chris Santa Maria, chairman of the $75.9 billion pension fund’s board of trustees, in a statement. PSERS made no further comment on the matter.
The pension fund had been under investigation by the Justice Department since at least May of last year, when subpoenas indicated that the FBI and prosecutors were seeking evidence of kickbacks and bribes at PSERS.
The subpoenas were reportedly looking for information from the pension fund, its executive director, chief financial officer, chief auditing officer and deputy CIO. The court orders reportedly showed that the FBI and prosecutors were probing possible “honest services fraud” and wire fraud.
According to a report released earlier this year following an internal investigation, PSERS investment consultant Aon took responsibility for the accounting error. The report includes a letter from Aon to Grossman that said the firm had become aware of data corruption in some sub-composite market values, cashflows and returns for April 2015.
Aon attributed the data corruption to an error by an analyst in uploading net asset value and cashflow data into the performance system it uses. The company said the data corruption impacted “a few asset class composites” in the public markets.
S&P Global Inc. should “carefully consider” a proposed tweak to how it assesses the creditworthiness of bonds owned by insurance companies, the Justice Department said, warning that such a change “could raise significant concerns” under U.S. antitrust law.
The Justice Department’s antitrust division said in a letter dated last Friday that a proposed methodology change by S&P — the world’s largest credit ratings company — could raise barriers for its rivals. The changes could end up hurting the credit grades of insurance companies that invest in bonds that aren’t rated by S&P.
The firm should “carefully consider whether penalizing insurers that purchase securities rated by S&P’s competitors has the potential to raise barriers to entry and expansion by competitors, insulate S&P from competition, or otherwise suppress competition from rival rating agencies,” said antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter in the letter. “Such actions could raise significant concerns that the Sherman Act has been — or will be — violated and warrant additional scrutiny.”
The Justice Department said on Monday that it had seized much of the ransom that a major U.S. pipeline operator had paid last month to a Russian hacking collective, turning the tables on the hackers by reaching into a digital wallet to snatch back millions of dollars in cryptocurrency.
Federal investigators tracked the ransom as it moved through a maze of at least 23 different electronic accounts belonging to DarkSide, the hacking group, before landing in one that a federal judge allowed them to break into, according to law enforcement officials and court documents.
The Justice Department said it seized 63.7 Bitcoins, valued at about $2.3 million. (The value of a Bitcoin has dropped over the past month.)
Investigators have contacted lawyers for Cuomo’s aides, interviewed senior state Health Department officials and subpoenaed the governor’s office for documents relating to the alleged data coverup, the sources said.
What caught the Justice Department’s eye was Gov. Cuomo’s claim that New York’s nursing-home deaths were lower than many other states’ and that his March 25 order didn’t contribute to the extremely high number of New Yorkers who died from Covid. Given the virus’s disproportionate effect on the elderly, sick and frail, this seemed unlikely. On Aug. 26, Justice’s Civil Rights Division, relying on its jurisdiction to investigate government-run facilities under the federal Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, asked the Cuomo administration for data on New York’s publicly run nursing homes, which account for less than 5% of nursing homes in the state.
In September, New York produced data showing it had underreported Covid deaths in government-run nursing homes by a third. The undercounting appeared to be due to several factors. First, when a nursing-home resident who contracted Covid died after being transported to a hospital for treatment, New York didn’t count it as a “nursing-home death.” Second, New York didn’t include deaths occurring before the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began requiring Covid reporting from nursing homes in mid-May. CMS made reporting prior Covid deaths optional, and New York apparently elected to keep the information to itself.
The stunning admission of a cover-up was made by Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa during a video conference call with state Democratic leaders in which she said the Cuomo administration had rebuffed a legislative request for the tally in August because “right around the same time, [then-President Donald Trump] turns this into a giant political football,” according to an audio recording of the two-hour-plus meeting.
Author(s): Bernadette Hogan, Carl Campanile and Bruce Golding