National Pension Service’s acting chief investment officer In-Sik Cho tendered a resignation on July 4, according to an NPS source, which may leave four out of nine executive positions at the $580 billion pension fund empty.
His resignation offer comes as the world’s third-largest pension scheme has just restarted the CIO selection process, with the jobs of CIO and global alternative investment head left unfilled for a year.
Cho’s offer to leave seems to be related to the leak to the media of a slap on his wrist from the NPS’ appointments committee.
The committee gave a warning to him after his remarks at the pension fund’ year-end gathering last year raised controversy.
It was known that at the gathering, he reprimanded colleagues who had supported prosecutors’ investigations into its role in the 2015 merger of Samsung C&T Corporation and Cheil Industries Inc., or blown the whistle on that issue.
“My understanding is that Cho felt humiliated as it seemed that someone within the NPS had intentionally leaked the warning to the media,” said the NPS source.
“It is no wonder that Cho’s remarks could be controversial. But it appeared that he tried to tighten discipline as senior and junior staff had thrown blames on each other during the investigations,” he added.
Cho, global public market head of the NPS, has been holding the fort since ex-CIO Myoun-Wook Kang abruptly quit in July of last year.
The former CIO had stepped down shortly after the NPS cancelled the appointment of its new global alternative investment head.
DOMESTIC EQUITY HEAD SACKED
Cho’s resignation offer also follows the NPS announcement on July 3 of the dismissal of former domestic equity head Jun-Kyu Che.
NPS held him accountable for an internal research report, based on which it had decided to support the controversial merger of the two Samsung group units in 2015.
It said the report inflated the enterprise value of Cheil Industries to justify the merger.
Che was then the research head of the NPS’ domestic equity division.
In May 2017, Che was appointed as domestic equity head as a successor of the acting CIO Cho who moved to the post of global public market head.
With the expected departure of Cho, NPS will need to fill four executive positions of CIO, global alternatives head, global public market head and domestic equity head.
As for the recent CIO selection process in which the NPS found “no qualified candidate,” the strongest candidate Thae Khwarg scored over 90 out of 100 in both document screening and interview, according to a financial industry source.
“(But) he failed to meet eligibility requirements of the presidential Blue House for an unknown reason,” he told the Korean Investors.
By Chang Jae Yoo
<Edited by Yeonhee Kim>