The UC Office of the President (UCOP) is ignoring accusations of department mismanagement against UC Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Singh Bachher.
In his role as CIO, Bachher oversees all investments for the UC system—over $100 billion worth—and has unilateral power to make decisions. In September, several former employees alleged that Bachher mistreated his employees and made decisions without support from his advisors.
These accusations were first published by Leanna Orr, deputy editor of Institutional Investor, in an article written after seven months of investigating.
UCOP and the Board of Regents have stated that they will not investigate the allegations against Bachher because they believe the allegations are misrepresentative of Bachher’s leadership.
Eduard van Gelderen, former senior managing director in the Office of the CIO, told Orr that Investment fellows carried Bachher’s suitcases at Board of Regents meetings and that Bachher regularly had an employee go grocery shopping for him.
In response, Bachher told Orr: “Look, when you have a family-type of organization and you’re friends, this is part of the culture, right? I have never felt that by going to the market with my colleagues to have lunch or buy strawberries is asking them to do chores for us, in all sincerity.”
Bachher told Orr around three-quarters of his 47-member staff have left since he became CIO in 2014. This summer had high senior staff turnover. Van Gelderen was the third person to leave since July. While Bachher says employees left amicably, some employees feel they were cheated.
“At the end of the day, it is basically Jagdeep who has full control and full responsibility of every position,” Van Gelderen told Orr. “We might have responsibilities on paper, but the reality is we don’t have any responsibilities at all.”
The UC system has no checks on the CIO’s powers in place, meaning Bachher can make deals despite opposition from his advisors.
Last year, Bachher decided to invest $250 million in Main Street Advisors, a wealth management company run by former UC Regent and former Board of Regents Investments Subcommittee Chair Paul Wachter, who resigned in 2016. Four of Bachher’s advisors told Orr that they opposed the decision, but Bachher still decided to make the investment.
“Look, ultimately, I am the chief investment officer, and on any investment we make it’s not likely we have a unanimous decision to proceed,” Bachher told Orr.
Bachher has been willing to work with the UC Student Association (UCSA) on divestment from fossil fuels, but not on divestment from defense contractors like General Dynamics. He claimed that divestment was not because of student advocacy, but because fossil fuels are no longer a good financial investment.
Last year, UCSA lobbied for the removal of former UC Regent Norman Pattiz after he was recorded in 2016 asking a former employee if he could touch her breasts. In contrast to their response to Pattiz’s conduct, UCSA has decided not to pursue an investigation or removal of Bachher.
UCSA President and Associated Students of UC San Diego Vice President of External Affairs Caroline Siegel-Singh called Bachher a “power player” in a University Affairs committee meeting at the September UCSA board meeting, while discussing which UC members were receptive to student concerns.
Siegel-Singh briefly discussed Orr’s article, but didn’t voice any concerns about Bachher’s alleged conduct. She refused to comment on the article or UCOP’s decision not to investigate Bachher to The Triton, stating that she did not have enough information about the situation.
In addition, neither the article nor the accusations were discussed during the Investments Subcommittee meeting at the Board of Regents meeting on September 25, but the subcommittee held a closed-session meeting to discuss personnel and Investments’ office organization.
UC Regent Richard Sherman—chair of the Investments Subcommittee on the Board of Regents—stands behind Bachher.
“I continue to have complete confidence in Jagdeep and the work he is doing as an investor, manager, and steward of the public funds he manages on behalf of the UC Regents,” UC Regent Roger Sherman told The Triton. “The article in Institutional Investor paints what I believe to be an inaccurate and misleading picture of Jagdeep’s leadership and the culture in the Office of the Chief Investment Officer.”
In 2017, the UC Regents gave Bachher a $1 million bonus in addition to his over-$600,000 salary due to the strong investment results in that year. In 2016, Bachher was given an $800,000 bonus despite negative performance on investments.
UCOP did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the alleged misconduct, the possibility of an investigation, or what about Orr’s article Sherman felt was misleading or inaccurate.
However, in an internal email from UC President Janet Napolitano to CIO Bachher—obtained by Orr—Napolitano affirmed her support for Bachher.
“Just read the story. It’s an ugly one, no doubt. You should know that I remain fully confident in you and your abilities. You are an important and integral part of our leadership team. Let me know if I can do anything to help,” Napolitano said. “My advice: Keep your head down and keep moving forward. We’ll get through this.”
Ethan Coston is an Assistant News Editor for The Triton. You can follow him @Ethan4Books.