The Charleston financial consultant whose involvement with the state retirement commission is being questioned said Thursday he is the "collateral damage" of a smear campaign against the state treasurer.
Mallory Factor is part of a State Law Enforcement Division investigation into what the Attorney General's Office has called a possible "pay to play" scheme. He is scheduled to be interviewed by SLED agents today.
Reynolds Williams, vice chairman of the S.C. Retirement System Investment Commission, said the commission received reports that Factor had called investment companies saying he was looking for new investors who could do a better job of handling some of the state's retirement money. Factor pushed his connection to S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis during his discussions with the companies, according to documents forwarded to the Attorney General's Office and SLED.
Factor said no wrongdoing occurred. "Totally fabricated," Factor said of documents leaked to the media. The documents include notes purportedly taken during a phone call between Factor and investors.
Loftis is on the five-member commission that chooses state pension system investments. He has criticized his fellow commissioners' current investments as too risky and under-performing and has called for greater accountability of the retirement system. He also has said the state is paying exorbitant fees to companies that invest its money.
"This is an attack on Curtis, and I am just the one who happens to get the collateral damage," Factor said. "It's South Carolina gutter politics."
Williams said he was "shocked" by Factor's claim.
"It is beneath contempt to think there's a smear campaign," Williams said. "No one has any interest in smearing anyone."
Loftis said he expected "a lot of people to be mad" about his calls for more public scrutiny of the commission.
"It's clear that there's a battle going on over control of a $26 billion trust fund that's in the hands of Columbia insiders and Wall Street," he said. "There are many people in the money chain, and no one wants to see that interrupted. People on all sides are gonna get bloody."
Factor and Loftis became friends during the treasurer's election campaign. When Loftis took office, Factor served on his transition team. During that time, Factor took an interest in the state's retirement investments.
He reported no campaign contributions to Loftis.
Factor, who has registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said he is a "third-party marketer" of investment firms he wants the state to do business with. If the state hired a firm he markets, he gets a cut of the fees paid by the state, he said. Factor said his cut wouldn't cost the state any additional money.
"I thought this was a great way for the state to make better investments," he said. "I would've made some money, no question."
Factor said he contacted the Retirement System Investment Commission by phone and by mail to recommend firms he thought the state should consider. A commission staffer signed for a package of documents in December, Factor said.
Williams, the commission vice chairman, said he doesn't recall receiving any correspondence from Factor.
Factor said that when SLED first contacted him, an agent said he "didn't think it's a major deal" and would take no longer than an hour.
"They said I could have an attorney present but it wasn't necessary," he said.
Reach Renee Dudley at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @renee_dudley.