GOP lawmaker accuses California public pension fund of investing in blacklisted Chinese companies

GOP lawmaker accuses California public pension fund of investing in blacklisted Chinese companies
© Greg Nash

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) on Thursday said that he has written a letter to California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomWatch live: California Gov. Gavin Newsom holds coronavirus press briefing Watch live: California Gov. Newsom holds coronavirus briefing Vote-by-mail would create chaos and distrust in November MORE (D) to voice concerns over the state's public pension fund chief and his connections with China.

The Indiana congressman is calling out the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest state pension fund in the U.S., for allegedly investing in numerous select blacklisted Chinese companies that manufacture military products.

The California-based fund invested $3.1 billion into 172 different Chinese companies, Banks said in an appearance on Fox Business Network. He said that some of the companies invested in have been blacklisted by the U.S. government.

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Banks said that he wrote in the letter to Newsom that Yu Ben Meng, the chief investment officer of CalPERS, should at least be investigated.

"Governor Newsom, if it were up to me, I would fire Mr. Meng immediately," Banks wrote in the letter. "At the least, I think a thorough investigation of Mr. Meng's relationship to the Chinese Communist Party and a comparison of CalPERS investments in Chinese companies before and after Mr. Meng's 2008 hiring are both warranted."

Meng is a U.S. citizen born in China and has worked for CalPERS two times, once starting in 2008 and then beginning in January 2019 when he was appointed to CIO managing $400 billion in investments, according to Reuters.

In the Fox Business interview, Banks said some of the equipment these Chinese companies are responsible for include technology such as Hikvision, which the Chinese use for surveillance on Uighur Muslim populations that the Chinese government has been accused of abusing.

CalPERS CEO Marcie Frost backed Meng in a statement.

"This is a reprehensible attack on a U.S. citizen. We fully stand behind our Chief Investment Officer who came to CalPERS with a stellar international reputation," she said.

A CalPERS spokeswoman declined to provide contact information for Meng, saying they had no further comment, according to Reuters.