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New Jersey Police and Firemen's Retirement System Chief Investment Officer Russell Niemie. (Photo: Russell Niemie).

Police and Fire pension fund chief investment office resigns after ethics probe

Niemie steps down following allegations that he violated ethics issue in New York

By David Wildstein, March 29 2022 3:34 pm

Russell Niemie, the chief investment officer of the New Jersey Police and Firemen’s Retirement System has resigned after his board became aware of a possible ethics violation about ten days ago.

Niemie’s resignation follows a finding this month that he violated the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) while serving as the chief investment officer of the New York State Nurses Association Pension Plan & Benefits Fund.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan affirmed a $96 million award to the nurses after an arbitrator found that White Oak Global Advisors, an investment advisor firm, interviewed Niemie for a job without advising pension fund trustees.

In late 2015, Niemie recommended a contract renewal for White Oak one day after he had interviewed for a job with the firm, according to records cited in a report by Pensions & Investments.

“The PFRS Board of Trustees accepted Russell Niemie’s resignation as chief investment officer, which is effective immediately,” a spokesman for the board said on Tuesday.  “The board is working to retain an executive consulting firm to lead the search for a new chief investment officer”

Niemie told the New Jersey Globe last week that he had no role in the renewal of White Oak’s contract.

“I was not part of the lawsuit.  I testified on behalf of the nurses.  I was not involved.  All I did was testify,” he said.  “The renewal came from legal and administrative staff.  I was never personally involved.  White Oak was our best performer. ”

According to Niemie, he had already resigned in his post at the nurses pension and benefits fund when he discussed a job with White Oak.

“I gave them almost a year’s notice,” Niemie said.   “I was already leaving and the board knew it.”

Niemie was named to the $350,000-a-year post in October 2020 after a national search conducted by Korn Ferry.

The Police and Firemen’s Retirement System had retained Windels Marx, a top national law firm, to conduct their investigation.   The agency was not aware of the allegations against Niemie when they hired him, the New Jersey Globe learned, and did not find out until last week.

In 2018, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a new law that transferred control of the $27 billion fund to the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, splitting it from the State investment Council and the Division of Investments.

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