NC Treasurer Janet Cowell Contributions; "Law Firms Seek Cut of State Pension Litigation" and Pay to Play

"...State pension funds are major targets for the high-flying litigation shops.

...State Treasurer Janet Cowell will choose about 10 to serve as a pool for lawsuits. Representatives from Cowell’s office and the office of Attorney General Roy Cooper are evaluating proposals from the firms.

...One of the firms targeting North Carolina is New York-based Bernstein Litowitz.

...Cowell has received more than $123,000 since 2007 in campaign contributions from employees and other people connected to the law firms that are trying to get the state’s business. The biggest contributors to Cowell were people connected to Bernstein Litowitz — which contributed at least $45,690, including in-kind contributions for catering and lodging.

Cooper received at least $76,825 in campaign contributions since 2007 from employees and others connected to the law firms seeking the state’s business. People connected to Bernstein Litowitz were also his biggest contributor, with $18,500 in contributions.

Tony Gelderman, who heads the Louisiana office of Bernstein Litowitz, contributed at least $8,000 to Cowell and provided lodging worth about $1,000. He contributed $5,500 to Cooper. Gelderman did not respond to a phone call and email seeking a comment for this story...

...James Cox, a professor at the School of Law at Duke University, said North Carolina shouldn’t be having people tied to elected state officers such as Cowell and Cooper choose the law firms.

“I think you should get it out of both those offices,” Cox said. “I think it should be in some more neutral body.”...

...large funds tend to negotiate lower fees, but that difference disappears once campaign contributions to state pension fund officials are accounted for.

“The political contributions are taking us back pretty much where we were before Congress adopted the law,”...

Bernstein Liebhard has hired two lobbyists in North Carolina, the only firm seeking North Carolina’s business that has done so, according to filings with the secretary of state. One of Bernstein Liebhard’s lobbyists is Jerry Meek, former chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party...

A few North Carolina firms are seeking to represent the state, including Blue Stephens & Fellers in Raleigh, which has submitted a joint proposal with Hagen Berman Sobol Shapiro of Seattle. Managing partner Dan Blue, chairman of Duke University’s Board of Trustees and a Democratic state senator from Wake County, told Carolina Journal his firm has not been involved in securities litigation, so “we teamed up with the best firm in the country to do it.”

Bernstein, Litowitz et al CAMPAIGN FINANCE $2,719,500 GIVEN

federal data covers from 1989 roughly through q2 2014
state-level data is not available in bulk for 2014.

Top Recipients, includes contributions from the organization’s employees, their family members, and its political action committee.

Hillary Clinton (D) $86,500
Janet Cowell (D-NC) $67,750
Eliot L. Spitzer (D-NY) $53,000
Barack Obama (D) $45,550
Roy Cooper (D-NC) $43,500

Bernstein Litowitz contributions to Janet Cowell;


"An examination of political contributions to Janet Cowell's campaign since 2008 courtesy of the NC State Board of Elections shows that employees of Bernstein have donated nearly $75,000 to Cowell in the last two elections cycles...

Interestingly, the donations include three in-kind donations for room/lodging in New Orleans. The contributor of this in-kind donation is Anthony Gelderman III, who is highlighted in this 2004 Forbes article as one who has "used political ties to turn Louisiana's pension funds into a profit center for his New York law firm, Bernstein Litowitz." Indeed, the article discusses a previous class action suit in which Bernstein tried to bill its clients (including major public pension funds) more than $10,000 per hour. The article also notes that Bernstein's business model seems to include cozying up to politicians and then leverage that relationship for lucrative class action suits:

Despite its New York roots, Bernstein Litowitz is especially influential in Louisiana. The state's public pension funds have retained the firm for at least 15 class actions. Bernstein Litowitz has contributed more than $90,000 to Louisiana politicians since 1996. It gave $38,000 last year, 83% of its contributions nationally.

Now it appears they are bringing that shady practice to North Carolina.

Every step in this story involves the politically-connected (Bowles/Morgan Stanley, Bernstein Litowitz) reaping major financial rewards, with taxpayers and perhaps NC state retirees on the hook. And Janet Cowell is squarely in the middle of it.

This whole Facebook fiasco begs a number of questions:

...What was Cowell doing in Louisiana multiple times in the last few years?

What is a New York based law firm with much of its business in Louisiana doing donating to the North Carolina State Treasurer, if not sniffing an opportunity to someday milk the pension fund for outlandish legal fees by representing the fund in a class action suit?

Will NC taxpayers be on the hook for $10,000 an hour legal fees?

Should retired teachers and state and local government employees be comfortable with how their pension is being managed?

Does anybody else see any conflict of interests in this whole ordeal?

State and local government retirees – and taxpayers –  deserve some answers."

"Pay to play, sometimes pay for play,
is a phrase used for a variety of situations
in which money is exchanged for services or the privilege to engage (play)
in certain activities.

The common denominator of all forms of pay to play
is that one must pay to "get in the game,"...

Typically, the payer (an individual, business, or organization) makes campaign contributions to public officials, party officials, or parties themselves, and receives political or pecuniary benefit such as no-bid government contracts, influence over legislation, political appointments or nominations, special access or other favors. The contributions, less frequently, may be to nonprofit or institutional entities, or may take the form of some benefit to a third party, such as a family member of a governmental official.

While the direct exchange of campaign contributions for contracts is the most visible form of Pay to Play, the greater concern is the central role of money in politics, and its skewing both the composition and the policies of government. Thus, those who can pay the price of admission, such as to a $1000/plate dinner or $25,000 "breakout session," gain access to power and/or its spoils, to the exclusion of those who cannot or will not pay: "giving certain people advantages that other[s] don't have because they donated to your campaign."

Incumbent candidates and their political organizations are typically the greatest beneficiaries of Pay-to-Play. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have been criticized for the practice. Many seeking to ban or restrict the practice characterize pay-to-play as legalized corruption."

NC Treasurer Janet Cowell "Investors as contributors"

04/30/2014 Individual Contribution to NC Treasurer Janet Cowell

Stan Kelly
President, Wealth Management, Sr. Exec
Wells Fargo
932 Kenleigh Cir
Winston Salem, NC 27106-5605

12/18/2013 Individual Contribution to NC Treasurer Janet Cowell

Melinda L. Baran
Retired CFP
Wells Fargo Advisors
100 Mainsail Dr
Cary, NC 27511-7201

10/31/2012 Wells Fargo PAC
90 S 7th St
Minneapolis, MN 55402-3903
Other Political Committee Contribution

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