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Calpers replaces activist president

SACRAMENTO -- Sean Harrigan, a longtime union official and one of the nation's most outspoken advocates for corporate governance reform, was ousted yesterday from his post as president of the $177 billion California Public Employees Retirement System.

In a 3-2 vote in San Francisco, the California State Personnel Board pulled Harrigan from his Calpers post after five years as the board's representative to the pension fund. It replaced him with Ron Alvarado, whose background is more aligned with the private business and government sector.

A new appointee of Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger provided one of the votes to replace Harrigan.

In a statement, Harrigan said he was "saddened" to end his involvement in "restoring much needed integrity and accountability to our capital markets." His supporters alleged that corporate pressure and Republican lobbying, including some from the governor, helped drive the move.

State Treasurer Phil Angelides, a Harrigan ally on the Calpers board, criticized Schwarzenegger and the personnel board for siding with "corporate interests and against taxpayers, pension fund members, and ordinary American investors."

Elected as Calpers board president in February 2003, Harrigan led the nation's largest public pension fund through a tumultuous year with positions that angered parts of the nation's business establishment, including the Walt Disney Co., the US Chamber of Commerce, and Washington, D.C.-based Business Roundtable.

Harrigan's statement made no mention of corporate foes. Earlier this week he described his possible ouster as retaliation for Calpers stands that included withholding support from directors of 2,400 companies this year, and persuading fellow institutional investors to withhold votes to reelect Disney chief executive Michael Eisner to that company's board.

At the time, California Chamber of Commerce president Alan Zaremberg said the withholding move represented "an effort by organized labor to intervene in the corporate board room rather than settle issues at the bargaining table." Other Harrigan critics said the board under his leadership focused more on social activism than generating profits.

Alvarado, a member of the State Personnel Board since 1995, will take over from Harrigan on Jan. 1.

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