Riverstone Pays $30M To End Cuomo’s Probe

Riverstone Holdings LLC has agreed to make a substantial payment of $30 million in order to end a probe of its role in the pay-to-play scandal involving the New York State Common Retirement Fund that surfaced in mid-March. The firm joins its sometime investment partner The Carlyle Group, which paid $20 million back in May to resolve its role in the investigation.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced the payment from Riverstone on June 11, terming the monies “restitution” that will be returned to the pension fund.

But the matter may still cast a shadow over the firm going forward, as the payment doesn’t stop Cuomo from continuing to investigate the actions of Riverstone founder David Leuschen.

New York-based Riverstone also agreed to adopt Cuomo’s code of ethics, which calls for the general partner to stop using placement agents and to undertake other reforms related to campaign contributions. Carlyle has also adopted the code.

“My Office has also secured an agreement with them [Riverstone] to return $30 million to the state pension fund, which has recently been hit by these tough economic times and suffered a significant decline in value,” he said in a statement. “I commend Riverstone for proactively embracing our reform efforts and encourage other companies nationwide to follow suit.”

For more than two years, the Democratic attorney general has been investigating allegations of millions of dollars of kickbacks paid by investment firms eager to invest the state’s $110 billion retirement fund. The investment firms hired an array of middlemen—lobbyists, lawyers, media consultants and placement agents—who reaped the fees.

But by jacking up the “cost of doing business,” these fees cost taxpayers dearly, Cuomo said in a conference call, noting the public now is being asked to contribute more to the fund to make up for its recent steep investment losses.

Cuomo, who is continuing his probe, has been joined in the investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

And while he said other states are just now “ramping up” their own investigations, New York for years has been rife with this kind of corruption, partly because just one individual, the state comptroller, runs the pension fund, he said.

Almost all other states have multi-member boards to oversee their funds.

So far, all indictments and charges involve the state pension fund when it was run by the former Democratic comptroller, Alan Hevesi. Two people have pleaded guilty.

Cameo For “Chooch”

Hevesi was New York City’s comptroller before he was elected to the same position in the state. Cuomo suggested that the city’s use of pension boards protected New York City’s funds from corruption.

“We haven’t found any evidence of Mr. Hevesi committing or his team, his associates, or Mr. Morris, committing the same type of activity on the city side that they did once they got to the state side,” Cuomo said.

The attorney general was referring to Henry Morris, who was Hevesi’s top fund raiser. Morris has been indicted, along with the pension fund’s former chief investment officer, David Loglisci. Lawyers for Morris, Loglisci and Hevesi, who has not been charged, all say their clients are innocent.

There was “an explosion of fraud,” however, once Hevesi became the state comptroller, Cuomo said, calling for systemic reforms to safeguard the pension fund from any more corruption.

Riverstone’s spokesman said: “For our investors and the firm, we believe we have reached the right decision through this resolution.”

Cuomo’s case rests partly on a movie called “Chooch” that was produced by one of Loglisci’s brothers. Riverstone’s Leuschen invested $100,000 in the movie. The movie’s plot, according to the Internet Movie Database, includes “a mix-up on the way to the airport involving a mysterious bag of money.”

Leuschen, a former Goldman Sachs energy expert, is not included in the Riverstone resolution, Cuomo said.

A spokesman for Leuschen had no immediate comment.

Cuomo has not accused Loglisci, the state pension fund’s former chief investment officer, of taking kickbacks, which is one reason the movie is significant. Loglisci disclosed his ties to the movie in his state ethics filings.