Inner City Press

 

In Other Media-e.g. Somalia, Ghana, Azerbaijan, The Gambia   For further information, click here to contact us          .

Home -

Search is just below this first article

 
 
How to Contact Us

 

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"

Inner City Press Podcast --



At the UN Pension Fund, Staff Told Not to Sue, Rules Bent, Goddard's Abuse of Staff Detailed

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, February 20 -- Within the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund, there is a level of abuse and lawlessness which sets it apart from other UN-affiliated agencies in New York. Some few of these abuses are described in the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services Report of Investigation which was finalized on March 28, 2006. This OIOS Report, which recommended action against Dulcie Bull and Paul Dooley, notes that "as an inter-agency entity, the UNJSPF is not bound to follow the specific regulations and rules of any of its member organizations in any area." These self-ruling areas include relations between senior management and staff, an area in which troubling abuses appear routine.

            The Pension Fund's self-rule also mirrors the wider UN's. Inner City Press is informed that on February 20, representatives of the Staff Council, which last week passed a resolution to exploring suing the proposal to outsource $9 billion of the Pension Fund, were summoned upstairs to a meeting with new Management chief Alicia Barcena. There, UN lawyers and not Ms. Barcena tried to impress upon the Staff Council that the UN is not covered by the U.S. pension law ERISA, and that litigation would be futile. Some in the Council were left muttering, Thou dost protest too much.

  On February 21, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson for comment, and was provided with a copy of Warren Sach's February 5 presentation, and a statement that the request that Ms. Barcena take press questions is still pending. Video here.

Ms. Barcena, '06

   The UN Pension Fund, manager of $38 billion, has no media contact. CEO Bernard Cocheme has declined to return either email or voice mail questions. So: Inner City Press is also informed, as another example of UNJSPF rule-bending, that retiree Antonio Angel Garcia is being brought back to the Pension Fund, ostensibly as a translator. There is a problem: Mr. Garcia is not a professional translator, of which there are many in the UN system. But the translator moniker is used, apparently with the wink-and-nod of the UN Office of Human Resources Management of ASG Jan Beagle, in order to evade the otherwise-applicable cap of $22,000 on pensioners' yearly earnings from the UN.

            But back to the Pension Fund's actual day-to-day relations with employees. Inner City Press has obtained a 100-page file concerning the abusive dynamic between the UNJSPF's executive officer Peter Goddard and staff member Hermin Patricia Clarke. It has taken a week to process it. During that week, press questions posed to CEO Bernard Cocheme have been ignored, and bids have been opened for the proposed outsourcing of $9 billion of the pension fund. Gag orders have been issued to Pension Fund staff, to not speak with Inner City Press. Mr. Cocheme has erroneously stated that the OIOS report is "not complete," and even that he voluntarily asked for the investigation (it was triggered by long-standing staff complaints). One of the complaints, which OIOS merely referred over to the UN's Office of Human Resources Management, concerns abuse of staff by senior management, including Peter Goddard. The OIOS report states, at paragraph 70, that "Mr. Goddard told ID/OIOS that Mr. Dooley authorized payments to Sprig and Mr. Goddard certified them."

            Peter Goddard is an former military man, who came to the Pension Fund after problems at his previous posting at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. From the Pat Clarke - Peter Goddard file, Ms. Clarke wrote:

"when I came in to work, I saw the folder on my chair. I replied... and placed the folder in the in-tray of the Executive Officer. Soon afterwards I heard this screaming at my head and looked up. The EO was standing almost on top of me shouting, 'I do not care one way or another, fill this in properly, I do not have time to place this game, I don't care.'  He then with vengeance tossed the folder at me, and stomped off to his office...

Later I had two pieces of mail addressed personally to the EO. I went to his room, he was sitting at his desk in the writing position. I quietly placed both pieces of mail in his in-tray. As I turned to walk out he screamed, 'Pat!' I got to the door and turned around in shock. He kept on screaming. 'Is it that you cannot put it the right way, not upside down?' He then took the two piece of mail, tapped them on this desk and put it aligned with his other stuff in the in-tray. He then shouted, 'Hello! Don't you understand what I said?' Again I did not reply. Then he started to get obnoxious, so I blocked out his words and turned and walked back to my work station."

 Goddard's insistence on which way mail should be placed in his in-box was the subject of a Goddard letter saved to file:

Dear Ms. Clarke... as you placed a small number of items of correspondence in my in-box I requested that in the future you... place items in the logical direction so that the text would not be upside down... You will recall that in February 2004 when I joined the UNJFPF, I interviewed you and asked you what your current duties were. Whilst you gave me a list of duties, it is evident that you actually complete very few of them... Your contribution to the running of the Executive Office is negligible. Indeed, much of my time, and that of Ms. Htay, is spent either attempting to get you to work or, in Ms. Htay's case, actually completing your work for you.

 In another letter, Mr. Goddard wrote:

"This aim of this letter is to place on record my dissatisfaction with your attitude [and] my concerns over how little work you actually do. I note that during this meeting you made the following comment when referring to me, 'Whip the black slave.' You have a habit of making such comments."

Ms. Clarke's narrative continues:

"when he screamed and ordered me into his office, I assumed it was 'the discussion.' So I even said to Dee before I went in, I am going to Abu Ghraib... He ordered me, 'Close the door!' He walked back to his chair and said, 'Sit!' He then said that he wanted to discuss my work. So I said, 'Okay, I can fill you in,' and started to talk. He screamed, 'Oh, no! you are not to talk, I am doing the talking.' He started to accuse me and to say exactly what he felt like saying. I was astonished and wondered if he had lost it as he was raving on and one and screaming at me...

Leak again -- two work stations including mine. The place was smelling really bad (cess pit). P. Ryder said that FMD was notified. The water began to fall on my desk even more. I keep wiping and kept on working as I know how nasty the Executive Officer treats me. Ironically, he peeps all day at me, stomps all over, notes in writing my every move. Yet he could not see the mess in the corridor and two work stations, one right outside his door with the garbage can on top of the work station...

      "He said he will change my time to 9:30. I said, "Well," as I wanted to explain. He then screamed, Do not say a word, I don't want to hear anything, I don't want to hear you. I again said, "Well." He screamed again, 'I said, do not say a word.

I stupidly said, "Well." He screamed, bellowed, Didn't you hear me? I said, I do not want to hear you, do not say a word!"

            The aforementioned Ms. Pat Ryder, who encouraged Inner City Press to leave the Pension Fund on February 15 by saying she would get answers to questions from the Fund's audit committee, thereafter did not respond to written questions. The aforementioned Dee wrote an email to CEO Cocheme, cc-ing among other Janna Sareva:

"Yesterday morning I went to speak with Ms. Pat Clarke in the Executive Office. As I arrived, Mr. Peter Goddard, who is an Executive Officer of the Pension Fund, was shouting at he, in an extremely deranged and unprofessional manner. I stood outside Pat's cubicle, in the adjacent cubicle, and waited for him to finish. He turned around, glared at me and asked (or rather, shouted) what I was doing there. When I replied that I was waiting to speak with Pat regarding a work issue he ordered me to get out, as it was his office... He also told me I was making a mistake in stating my opinion, as 'it counts for nothing.' It appears that Mr. Goddard also takes advantage of your absences to initiate and aggravate situations like this, as this is not the first time he has confronted Ms. Clarke when you are traveling and out of the NY office. Your contribution to the solution of this ongoing problem would be greatly appreciated."

            As previously reported, Mr. Cocheme is said to staff to travel more and more, ostensibly to the UNJSPF office in Geneva, but always by way of Paris. Back to the narrative: Ms. Clarke herself wrote to Cocheme to summarize her treatment by Cocheme's executive officer Peter Goddard:

Mr. Cocheme, Can you please ask Mr. Peter Goddard to refrain from screaming at me and insulting me and bullying me... I do not want another harassment / verbal abuse / torture meeting with Mr. Goddard, alone or in the presence of Ms. Lily Htay or whoever else he invites in to witness the proceedings. Especially I do not trust being in a closed door room with him or being in a position where I cannot get away easily from him... There is no solution to anything, just him taunting me and screaming orders and abuse to me as I sit in the interrogation / torture chair in his room. It is most humiliating and I am tired of suffering these unnecessary indignities with no form of resource. As a result, I am asking for this meeting to be held in your presence...

            But Mr. Cocheme did nothing. As many staffers have told Inner City Press, Mr. Cocheme merely listens and nods and does nothing. "He is complicit," one staff says. Including in Ms. Bull's and Mr. Dooley's shenanigans, which may explain Cocheme's misrepresentation of the status of the OIOS report, and melt-down at the last Board meeting, opposing the Pension Fund's governing body even discussing the OIOS report. We will have more on that. Now, to the final sad chapters of Ms. Clarke's time at the Pension Fund.

  The Staff Union's Rosemarie Waters first reported on a hearing through which Ms. Clarke sought to be treated like others at the Pension Fund: "Pat had requested the intervention of Mr. Cocheme no less than 10 times in relation to the horrid work environment and constant harassment of the EO. Mr. Dietz was quiet for a minute and then stated that he did not know the exact number but that Pat had written a number of times about the environment and those letters were directed to Mr. Cocheme."

   Ms. Clarke's position was supported by OHRM and even the Joint Appeals Board, but rejected by Cocheme. The news was conveyed by form letter from Christopher Burnham, that a decision was made "not to accept the JAB's recommendation... this decision is not subject to any appeal."

            And so it goes at the UNJSPF, and within the UN system more broadly. To be continued.

Feedback: Editorial [at] innercitypress.com

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

Google
Search WWW Search innercitypress.com

UN Pension Fund Outsourcing Draws 13 Bidders, Over 10 from USA, Kudos for Shrink-Wrap

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, February 16 --Nine billion dollars of the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund's money was up for bid on Friday. In a small conference room of a building on 45th Street, the ritual opening of the bids -- thirteen in total -- was held. In attendance were representatives of five of the bidders, four UN procurement staff, a genial staff council representative, and a lone media representative, from Inner City Press.

            Journalist attendance became possible only at the last minute. Inner City Press had written to UN Controller Warren Sach to request access, without receiving any direct response. At the UN's noon briefing on Friday, Inner City Press asked to be given access, to the opening then less than three hours away.  The spokesperson said she would check, but at 2:20 p.m. said she had not heard back, and anyway "it's just the beginning of the process." 

   Inner City Press got word that the Department of Management decided to allow access, although this was never announced or communicated by the Department.  Inner City Press showed up, on the second floor of 304 East 45th Street, and the procurement staff said they had been told to permit access. This time only, they appear to think. Inner City Press was forbidden from audio or video taping. These bid opening should always be public.

            And so, this exclusive Inner City Press report, one hour after the opening. Bidders could apply for the "passive indexation" of the Pension Fund's North American equity portfolio or for "transition management," or for both. Indexation refers to a shift away from picking the stocks of individual companies, and rather tracking the market as a whole. In the transition toward that, well, someone would have to manage. The thirteen bidders, in alphabetical order with package identifiers are as follows:

1. Alliance Bernstein LLC (USA), for both, six envelopes each with three enclosures, two velobound and one soft covered.

2. Barclays Global Investors (USA), for both, two boxes full of binders by an institution who's parent is based in London but has paid to put its name on a stadium in Brooklyn.

3. Blackrock (USA), for both, four FedEx boxes, velobound volumes, black as in Blackrock.

4. Citigroup, Inc. (USA), for transition management only, two boxes, six copies.

5. Goldman Sach (USA), for transition management only, one FedEx box with thin velobound volume stamped "Strictly Confidential and Private."

6. JPMorgan Asset Management (USA), for passive indexation only, two soft FedEx envelopes.

7. Lehman Brothers Asset Management (USA), for transition management only, six green binders.

8. MFC Global Investment Management (USA), for passive indexation only, thin envelopes, thin velobound volumes.

9. Russell Investment Group (USA), for transition management only, a box, then wrapped in black paper, then shrink-wrap (an "oooh" went up from the small crowd, and Russell's observer said, "We don't mess around").

10. State Street Corp. (USA), for both, six envelopes.

11. The Bank of New York (USA), for both, six envelopes, wire-bound volumes.

12. The Northern Trust (USA), for both, one FedEx, three thin velobound volumes and two pamphlets, a slender and confident presentation by a firm already on the inside (see below).

13. UBS, AG (Switzerland), for passive indexation only, 3 UPS packages (that's right, UPS for UBS).

            By mistake, but perhaps predictive, The Northern Trust's submission was opened before The Bank of New York. The master of ceremonies, otherwise smooth as silk, apologized for the gaffe, which had been pointed out by Northern Trust's observer. Also in attendance was a Mr. Khan, who went to the door when it was knocked on. The bidding room felt not unlike a small funeral parlor, with a series of viewings throughout the day. This step to outsource $9 billion in UN staffers' pensions took place mechanically, mundanely, with little notice, but a bit more than the contracts described in the OIOS report, given to Sprig without bidding, or with only sham bidding. The opening of bids took place as described above. What happens next is again in the shadows....

            When asked at a February 5 town hall meeting how large a management fee would be paid, UN Controller Warren Sach did not have an answer. Following the meeting, Inner City Press asked Mr. Sach for the list of bidders, or those on the short list who got the Request for Proposals, as well as for a copy of the RFP.  For the RFP, Inner City Press was referred to the administrative officer of the UN Investment Management Service, Chieko Okudo, from where another referral was made. As days and then a more than a week sent by, the RFP was never provided, and Inner City Press was told that neither would the list of bidders be released. Similar difficulties in obtaining answers and documents arose last year during Inner City Press' reporting on the conflicts raised by UN investment fees being paid to Pictet & Cie., whose Ivan Pictet still serves as an "ad hoc" member of the UN Pension Fund's Investment Committee, on which now sits a Vice Chairman of Merrill Lynch and former directors of Morgan Stanley and Commerzbank.

That there are causes of concern can be found in an until-now confidential report of investigation by the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services. In OIOS' "Investigation of conflict of interest, favoritism and mismanagement at the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund," the complaints of two whistleblowers are considered and upheld. Specifically, OIOS confirmed that through the Pension Fund's Paul Dooley, millions of dollars in contacts were given to a company called Sprig, Ltd, run by Gerald Bodell, who was previously Dooley's supervisor at Guardian Mortgage Corporation.  According to the audit,

"OIOS found no evidence that UNJSPF [the UN Pension Fund] considered candidates other than Sprig for any of these contracts. Similarly, there is no  evidence that UNJSPF made any checks on the background of Sprig independently (for example by requesting a D&B report on Spring) or that UNJSPF attempted to independently determine whether Mr. Bodell's fees were consistent with those charged by other consultants."

            The audit reports that Sprig was "operated by Mr. Bodell from the basement of his home," but nevertheless was given a higher score for "Web experience" than the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche. Sprig's contract for "Strategic Information Technology and Management Consulting Study" was signed for the UN by Sanjaya Bahel, who was since by indicted and most recently had his bail revoked. A subsequent contract amendment for Sprig was signed for the UN by Andrew Toh, an Assistant Secretary General who is currently under investigation and for that reasons has not been asked to resign by new Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The audit concludes with the recommendation that "any contracting and procurement activities undertaken by the CEO of the UNJSPF comply with the Pension Board's directive that they be limited and only under exceptional circumstances."

Andrew Toh and Ms. Frechette: back to the future?

            At the February 5 meeting, the Staff Council referred to documents which challenge Mr. Sach's presentation of himself as having opposed an earlier attempt to outsource Pension Fund business. After the meeting, Inner City Press asked Mr. Sach about these documents. Mr. Sach showed a copy of a memo from Chieko Okudo to then-Under Secretary General Christopher B. Burnham, on which was scrawled at the bottom of the first page an instruction to "do this by the book, -CBB." Mr. Sach said that some had circulated copies of this memo with the bottom notation removed.

            Inner City Press has obtained copies of emails from the time at issue, which tell a different story. After a decision was made to "liquidate" a small capitalization fund managed for the Pension Fund by Lombard, Odier, Darier and Hentsch (LODH), an internal debate ensued whether the liquidation contact could be given without bidding to the Northern Trust bank, which was already the global Custodian of the Fund. Despite the questions raised, by July 5 Northern Trust's Vice President Robert Ernst wrote to two individuals at the UN that the liquidation was finished, "would you like sales proceeds to remain in the LODH portfolio, or transferred out to your own cash accounts?"

            Before this liquidation, there was a June 13, 2006 email to Ms. Okuda stating that:

"Chieko: I do have a problem with your memo. The memo needs to state the complete additional services to be performed other than NT [Northern Trust] act as the Master Record Keeper. Recently, a number of changes and additional services outside the original scope have been requested to be undertaken by Northern Trust. All this has been undertaken in a non-competitive environment.... The organization is now open for criticism if we continue to expand the scope of NT, which was not originally envisaged. This can lead to other banks suggesting that we have not been open and transparent..."

            But it is now not only "other banks" who are complaining about a lack of transparency. The majority of questions directed to Mr. Sach on February 5 were critical in nature, asking "why fix it if it isn't broken" and why hand money to an outside firm. Later the question was asked, can we see the Request for Proposals, and know what firms are on the short list? No such information was provided, until press access to the bid-opening was allowed at the last minute, after repeated request, most of which met with no response. It shouldn't be like this. Nor should the recruitment and employment practices of the Pension Fund. Watch this site.    

At UN Pension Fund, Outsourcing Is Set to Be Sued, While UN Medical Services Abuse Paper Trial Surfaces

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, February 15 -- In the drive to outsource $9 billion from the UN Pension Fund, meetings are held behind closed doors, even when presented as public. For that reason and others, on Thursday the UN Staff Council passed a motion authorizing a lawsuit in Federal Court to try to stop the deal.

            On Thursday the Pension Board's Audit Committee met. Inner City Press attempted to stakeout the meeting -- that is, to ask participants questions on their way in and out. Inner City Press waited outside the meeting room, on the 38th Floor of One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. While this is done routinely outside even closed meeting held in the UN Secretariat building, at the UN Pension Fund such waiting draws stares and suspicion. One officious man demanded, "How did you get in here?"

            Eventually a woman named Pat Ryder, from Meeting Services, told Inner City Press she would tell the Audit Committee members and management of the questions to be answered. On this basis, Inner City Press headed back to the Secretariat building, and formalized the questions in writing:

Since one function of the Audit Committee is to liaise between OIOS and the Pension Board, when is the Audit Committee going to discuss OIOS' 20-page, 124-paragraph Report of Investigation, dated March 28, 2006, ID Case No. 0543/05, calling among other things for action be taken on Dulcie Bull and Paul Dooley?

 According to a statement released last week by the S-G's spokesperson's office to Inner City Press, Mr. Cocheme "informed OIOS that he disagrees with the findings and recommendations of the report of investigation - as regards the actions of his staff - and advised that he 'intends to take no action' with regard to them. OIOS advised him that pursuant to its mandate, it will report his response to the General Assembly."

 Inner City Press tried to reach Mr. Cocheme by telephone for an explanation of his disagreement and refusal to act on UN investigators' recommendations, and left a detailed voice mail, but still a week later no response has been received...  Is it appropriate for Pension Fund staff to be told not to speak to the press?

  On outsourcing, to which firms was the RFP circulated and when it is due? Why have we still not been able to see a copy of the RFP? Will the Audit Committee consider the many requests that it await an asset liability management study? Could Deutsche Bank bid? Could Merrill Lynch?There are other questions, but rather than keep asking, we'll await answers to the above.

   The questions were also sent to the staff representative and to CEO Cochame, as well as to UN Controller Warren Sach. By midnight, none of the questions were answered. Nor had Mr. Sach responded to a direct media request to attend the opening of the bids for the $9 billion to be outsourced. At the UN's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked the General Assembly President's spokesman why the four GA representatives on the Pension Board are not responsible for bringing to the GA's attention for action that Pension Fund management's refusal to implement the recommendations of an OIOS report.  From the transcript:

Inner City Press: The board of the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund seems to have, the General Assembly sends four members to it.  So, Iím wondering, first, how theyíre elected by the GA, by the General Assembly or by some Committee, and also whether they can, the issue Iíve asked you about, these OIOS reports that now supposedly go back to the GA, can these four individuals, do they play any role Ė- because theyíre on the Pension Fund Board, in bringing this back to the GA?
 
Spokesperson:  No, no.  The Chairman of the Board sends his report, the annual report of the Board, to the Fifth Committee.  It's a standing item.  I think itís an annual item.  If not annual, it's one of the biennial items.  And, once that report is made to the Fifth Committee, the Member States can either endorse the report of the Pension Fund, ask questions of the Pension Fund about why they did not accept recommendations made by OIOS, and it's either that the Chief can persuade Member States that this was the right decision to make, or Member States can easily take a decision or resolution telling him, "No, you have to accept the recommendations made by OIOS."

            We'll see. The Staff Council passed a resolution authorizing litigation, and allocation of up to $250,000 from the reserve fund to that end. The resolution expressed "dismay" at the Secretary-General and "alarm" at the speeding toward outsourcing.

OIOS' Ms. Alenius: miscellaneous?

            The head of OIOS, Inga-Britt Ahlenius, Warren Sach, the previous Deputy Secretary General and UN Medical Services' Agnes Pasquier and Sedershan Narula were all informed, on March 6, 2006, of the Pension Fund management's abusive practice of unilaterally declaring that staff they have put on sick leave "are not to enter UNJSFP office space over the same period." This particular order came from the Pension Fund's Peter Goddard, regarding whom we have more to report. In this case raised and documented, the above-named were notified that the staff member was "escorted out of the building - and this is not the first staff member to have endured such humiliating treatment -- simply for having expressed a different opinion from the 'management.' Many staff members question why Mr. Goddard, in particular, has not been escorted out of the building, as valid reason abound... His infamous 'paper-throwing' incident at a Town Hall meeting demonstrated his flagrant disrespect toward staff members."

            On May 3, 2006, Medical Services' Dr. Sedershan Narula and OHRM's Netta Avedon and Barada Weisbrot were informed of staff's concern "that UN funds and time are being squandered by Pension Fund management, where some Pension Fund staff members are forced to undergo unnecessary psychiatric evaluations. This is purely a tool to enable the continual harassment by Pension Fund management and some supervisors toward certain staff members... Pension Fund staff members who were sent for psychiatric evaluations have ALL made the 'mistake' of merely challenging Pension Fund management / supervisors with regard to managerial opinions / decision."

            Like the decision to try to push this outsourcing through, behind closed doors. As one staff member put it, "Who's crazy?" Developing.

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service.

            Copyright 2006 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] innercitypress.com -

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540