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  • Originally published 02/13/2013

    The Pension Fund That Ate California

    After spending years dogged by unpaid debts, California labor leader Charles Valdes filed for bankruptcy in the 1990s—twice. At the same time, he held one of the most influential positions in the American financial system: chair of the investment committee for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, the nation’s largest pension fund for government workers. Valdes left the board in 2010 and now faces scrutiny for accepting gifts from another former board member, Alfred Villalobos—who, the state alleges, spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to influence how the fund invested its assets. Questioned by investigators about his dealings with Villalobos, Valdes invoked the Fifth Amendment 126 times....

  • Originally published 01/28/2013

    Nell Irvin Painter Bids Farewell to the Past

    In 2005 the prize-winning historian Nell Irvin Painter put down her pen and picked up a paintbrush.After 17 years at Princeton University, the publication of seven groundbreaking books, and terms at the helms of two prestigious historical associations, Ms. Painter said goodbye to all that. She retired at 62 and spent $150,000 to pursue a bachelor-of-fine-arts degree from Rutgers University, followed by an M.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design, in 2011.And although she received a Centennial Medal that same year from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for her historical work, the former professor, once described by some peers as an imperious trouble­maker who refused to be boxed in, is not particularly interested in returning to the ivory tower.In an interview here at her art studio, a few blocks from Penn Station, Ms. Painter, who is now 70, describes having given away all the books in her library. She says she'll never write another word of history....

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