Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. board members including Gabrielle Rubenstein (wearing white) meet with staff and advisors on Oct. 30, 2023, to discuss a proposal to raise the fund’s rate of return by making riskier investments. The idea stalled when advisors suggested the strategy and timing are ill-advised. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. board members including Gabrielle Rubenstein (wearing white) meet with staff and advisors on Oct. 30, 2023, to discuss a proposal to raise the fund’s rate of return by making riskier investments. The idea stalled when advisors suggested the strategy and timing are ill-advised. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

Permanent Fund board calls special meeting Wednesday due to leaked emails alleging improper behavior

Ellie Rubenstein accused of setting up meetings between APFC staff and her business associates.

A leak raising concerns about improper actions related to management of the Alaska Permanent Fund by one of its board members has resulted in a special meeting scheduled Wednesday by the board — with the apparent focus being on the leak itself rather than the allegations.

“The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC) Board of Trustees will hold a virtual Special Meeting on May 8, 2024 at 8:00 a.m. to discuss the security of APFC’s records systems and document management procedures for confidential information,” a statement posted Monday on APFC’s website states.

At issue is alleged misbehavior by Board of Trustees Vice-Chair Gabrielle Rubenstein by arranging meetings between APFC staff and her own business associates, including her billionaire father David Rubenstein, according to the Alaska Landmine, which first reported the story on April 27. The story was based on multiple emails provided to the Landmine between various APFC and private industry officials, the source of which has not been disclosed by the Landmine.

However, a May 4 editorial in the Anchorage Daily News stated “the emails, by all appearances, look to be an intentional effort by APFC chief investment officer Marcus Frampton to document destabilizing and improper actions by Rubenstein related to the Permanent Fund’s management.”

“Specifically, Frampton raised concerns about Rubenstein’s repeated urging for the fund to increase its investment with firms and figures with whom she had business or family connections, a massive red flag for potential conflicts of interest,” the editorial notes.

The APFC board is responsible for overseeing the roughly $80 billion Alaska Permanent Fund, including determining investment strategies and other policies.

Rubenstein, in a prepared statement issued May 4, declared serving on the board “has allowed me to serve my home state by bringing private sector investment expertise and perspectives to the Permanent Fund Corporation.”

“Introducing and connecting Permanent Fund Staff to investment firms so that they can explore opportunities is an appropriate and valuable role and is common practice among state pension boards, endowments, and sovereign wealth funds,” she wrote. “In this role, I have always followed the Permanent Fund Board’s ethics rules and disclosure requirements, and I was unaware of these concerns about my service on the Board. That someone leaked internal messages containing confidential information to the media is disturbing; it is a breach of policy and trust, and it distracts from the important work the Permanent Fund Trustees and Staff are doing for the State of Alaska.”

APFC issued a separate prepared statement on May 2 acknowledging “recent media reports concerning internal communications regarding potential conflicts of interest.”

“We take these concerns seriously and were addressing the issue through established protocols prior to coverage by the media,” the statement notes. “We are committed to ensuring the well-being of our team and the integrity of the Fund’s investment process and to working on behalf of all Alaskans. Transparency and accountability are core values at APFC. A review of this matter is underway to identify next steps. We will provide further updates as appropriate.”

Rubenstein was appointed to the volunteer trustee position in 2022 by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Prior to the allegations published by the Landmine last month, she appeared at a finance conference in Saudi Arabia last fall where, according to the ADN, she “talked up her close ties with Gov. Mike Dunleavy, talked down the acumen of her fellow trustees and made several inaccurate claims about the trustees’ investment plans and her own role.”

Dunleavy, during a press conference last week, declined to address specifics about the allegations raised and whether he still supports Rubenstein as a member of the APFC board.

“This is a discussion internally for the Permanent Fund board and that’s all I can say,” he said.

The governor also declined to respond about a leaked email where Rubenstein told Frampton that current APFC board chairman Ethan Schutt will not be reappointed when his term ends this summer.

The notice of the special meeting states much of the discussion may occur out of public view.

“Because a public discussion about potential vulnerabilities of procedures and systems could cause immediate financial harm to the Fund, the Board may convene in executive session…to discuss this subject,” the notice states.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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