Alaska Permanent Fund board holds heated meeting after publication of emails raising concerns about board’s vice chair

The Alaska Permanent Fund trustee board held a special meeting Wednesday to discuss security issues after a series of internal staff emails were made public. In the emails, published by the Alaska Landmine website late last month, the fund’s chief investment officer raised concerns about what he described as the vice chair’s “conflicts of interest.”

The meeting quickly led to tense exchanges between trustees about board member behavior. The board also raised concerns about staff morale and the fund’s reputation and trustworthiness.

The board sets policy for the $80 billion fund, one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds. The fund pays the state’s annual dividend to Alaskans and provides about half the state’s general fund revenues.

The concerns raised by Marcus Frampton in the emails involve Vice Chair Ellie Rubenstein, co-founder of the Manna Tree Partners private equity firm and daughter of David Rubenstein, who is co-founder of the Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private equity funds. Ellie Rubenstein’s mother is Alice Rogoff, who purchased the Anchorage Daily News in 2014, changed its name to Alaska Dispatch News and owned the company until it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2017.

[Report: Internal emails at Alaska Permanent Fund show financial manager raising ethical concerns about fund’s vice chair]

Frampton said in the emails that Rubenstein has made “dozens upon dozens” of referrals of investment managers to staff, some involving investors or businesses with ties to her private equity firm or her father’s company. She has attempted to have one Permanent Fund employee fired after the employee displeased her father and has said some of the fund’s asset classes need to be managed by different personnel, according Frampton’s emails.

Frampton also said in the emails that staff has at times held meetings that Rubenstein helped organize, though managers have not altered investments in response.


Rubenstein has said in prepared statements that she follows all the fund’s ethical rules, and it’s “appropriate and valuable” to introduce Permanent Fund staff to investment firms. She called the publication of the emails “disturbing” and a “breach of policy and trust.”

Rubenstein was appointed to the board two years ago by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

During the roughly 45-minute public portion of the meeting, Rubenstein did not participate in the discussion among trustees or provide a statement. The meeting was attended by all six trustees.

The board met in executive session for close to two hours. Chair Ethan Schutt said in the meeting after the executive session that there was no external IT breach at the fund.

“Other concerns are under consideration by the board, and we’re considering a series of governance reforms as a board that we will address in further public meetings,” he said. The issues include IT, trustee interactions and information trustees provide, as well as relations between staff and trustees, Schutt said.

It isn’t clear how the Landmine acquired the emails.

During the meeting’s public discussion, trustee Craig Richards, the longest-serving trustee and one originally appointed by former Gov. Bill Walker, said he assumed the ethical allegations against Rubenstein would be handled through the state’s ethics process.

Richards said that he’s less concerned about the publication of the emails than he is about the overall behavior of the board. He did not provide names of trustees he was referring to.

He said the behavior has created an atmosphere where employees are in “cover yourself” mode, which he asserted led to the emails being published by the Landmine.

Trustee Jason Brune replied that those were “pretty strong allegations.”

He pressed Richards to clarify.

Richards said over the last two years or so, he has witnessed a large increase among some trustees in the number of referrals to staff involving outside investment managers and potential investments, he said.

“It just increased in volume to a point that staff is obviously feeling uncomfortable,” said Richards. “And that’s been communicated, yet the behavior still occurred.”

He said some trustees have increased their “direct communications with staff at a level we’ve never seen before.”

“And I think that that, again, is having some negative consequences in the sense that it’s making some of the managers feel a little undermined,” Richards said.

He said discussions are taking place behind closed doors in ways that didn’t used to happen.

Also, there have probably been “some indirect threats ... around people in a way that they’re beginning to feel threatened around their employment or the status of the company, which is why we’re seeing leaks,” he said.


Richards said he believed that the board must discuss the need for policy changes “that would better define board behavior.”

Potential policy changes related to “the handling of confidential information” also needed to be discussed, Richards said.

Trustee Adam Crum said he’s “not familiar with any of that at all.”

Richards said he didn’t want to “point fingers.”

Brune said Richards was pointing fingers.

“I have followed the process,” said Brune, appointed to the board last year by Dunleavy. “I have not gotten together with folks behind closed doors outside of the Open Meetings Act. And I think that those allegations are pretty serious allegations, Trustee Richards. And as for threats to staff, absolutely not.”

Frampton in his emails indicated that Ellie Rubenstein had attempted to arrange meetings between investment managers seeking to do business with the fund and Permanent Fund staff.

Britt Harris, an adviser to the fund as a member of the board’s investment advisory group, spelled out what he described would be the right approach in those situations. Harris provided his view of the email release in the public portion of the meeting, at Schutt’s request.


Harris, a former chief investment officer for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, another large wealth fund, said that trustees of wealth funds will receive numerous queries from investment managers who want to do business with the fund.

Harris said that in those situations, trustees need to say, “Look, I’ll be happy to refer you to the investment team, but you need to understand that I have nothing to do with the selection of investment managers.”

The trustee should then document that they referred an investment manager to the fund’s investment team, he said.

“That’s a professional way of handling things and it’s just the way things have to operate on the investment team side,” Harris said.

Harris said it is “absolutely essential” that the board of trustees conveys competence and total commitment to the fund, he said. It’s also critical that collaboration between the board and the fund’s investment team “conveys trust to the outside world. And it needs not just to convey trust, but actually be trustworthy,” he said.

As for the way the emails were made public, Harris said, that appears to be “a major policy violation.”

More than 60 people took part in the meeting, which was held virtually. At the meeting, Schutt also read three comments from the public that he said the board had received about the issue.

Two called for Rubenstein’s removal or resignation. A third expressed anger with the board involving a lack of transparency.

State law says the governor can remove a public board member “only for cause.” Dunleavy said in a press conference last week that the issue involving Ellie Rubenstein is a matter for the Permanent Fund board to address internally.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or