Baltimore police and fire pension fund seeks to withdraw money from hedge fund run by conservative donor

The pension fund for Baltimore police officers and firefighters is seeking to withdraw $32 million from a hedge fund that was run by conservative donor Robert Mercer, city officials said.

Mercer stepped down as the co-chief executive of Renaissance Technologies on Thursday, as questions about his backing of conservative and far right causes — including support for Steve Bannon, the former White House aide — threatened to affect the hedge fund’s business.

The New York Times first reported the pension fund’s decision to withdraw the money. Comptroller Joan Pratt, who is a member of the fund’s board, said the board made the decision last week.

The Baltimore Fire and Police Employees Retirement System sought a refund of its investment with Renaissance Technologies. But David A. Randall, the retirement fund’s deputy director, said it could take as long as six months to get the money back.

Board members convened on a conference call Oct. 24 to discuss the issue, Randall said. It is up to the board to make key investment decisions, and he said it considers political or ethical questions on a case-by-case basis.

Left-wing news site Think Progress highlighted the retirement fund’s investment with Mercer’s company last month, arguing that it essentially was helping to bankroll white supremacists because of Mercer’s right-wing connections.

Pulling the money “was the right thing to do when we found out what this company was doing,” Pratt said.

Pratt said she thinks the fund’s managers ought to review its investments to ensure they raise no other politically sensitive issues.

The retirement fund could reconsider its request to get its money back now that Mercer has departed, but the decision would rest with the board, Randall said.

iduncan@baltsun.com

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