Navnoor Kang, ex-official of NY Pension Fund charged with bribery

Navnoor Kang, an Indian origin former official of one of the largest pension funds, who oversaw the investment of $53 billion in pension funds, has been charged by federal prosecutors with accepting bribes of more than $100,000 in cash, cocaine, prostitutes, strippers, trips and concert tickets to steer lucrative business to two brokerage firms.

A director and strategist at the New York State Common Retirement Fund (NYCRF), Navnoor Kang “allegedly steered billions of dollars of business to broker-dealers who bribed him with luxury vacations, high-priced watches, drugs, cash and more”, Preet Bharara, the New York Federal prosecutor, said on Wednesday, last week.

Kang, 38, is a former tennis pro who played in international tournaments in 2005 and 2006.

From 2014 to 2016, he was the Director of Fixed Income and Head of Portfolio Strategy at NYCRF, the third largest pension fund in the US with $184 billion in assets. He was responsible for investing $53 billion in fixed income securities.

Court documents say Navnoor Kang, 38, started taking bribes almost as soon as he became director of fixed income and head of portfolio strategy for the NYS Common Retirement Fund in Albany in 2014.

The two companies, which were not identified, did not do any business with NYCRF in 2013. But by 2016 their combined annual volume of business was $2.557 billion after Kang had started sending them business, according to court documents. This netted the companies millions of dollars in commissions, prosecutors said.

NYSCRF is the third largest pension fund in the United States, with approximately $184 billion in assets in trust for a total of more than one million retirees and other beneficiaries, and at least two different people from different companies paid off Kang to get a piece of the pie. “This was an age old, very classic tale of quid pro quo corruption,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

Bharara said the prosecution began with an investigation by the enforcement unit of the Securities and Exchange Commission which was alerted by one of the brokerage houses involved. Investigators found one of the brokerage houses went from handling no fixed income investments for the state pension fund to handling over $2 billion in two years. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

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