The California Public Employees Retirement System, thelargest public pension fund in the country, announcednew data on the performance and cost of its private equityportfolio dating back to 1990.

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In that time, the pension fund has realized $24.2 billion in netgains, while external fund managers have realized $3.4 billion infees and profit sharing agreements, according to a release fromCalPERS.

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For the 2015 fiscal year, the fund saw $4.1 billion in privateequity net gains, while the external partners and managers of thoseinvestments realized $700 million in profit sharing agreements.

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All told, CalPERS manages about $295 billion for about 1.7million state worker participants.

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The data on private equity performance comes froma newly created proprietary system to analyze the performance andcost of the fund’s private equity portfolio, called the PrivateEquity Accounting and Reporting Solution, or PEARS.

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That new capability comes as the place of alternativeinvestments like private equity and hedge funds have come undernationwide scrutiny for what critics claim are high expenses andquestionable returns.

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The new data on private equity’s performance in CalPERS’ overallportfolio will no doubt give evangelists of private equity newmomentum in defending the value proposition ofthe complicated investments.

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"Private equity has the highest net returns in our portfolio,"said Ted Eliopoulos, CalPERS Chief Investment Officer, in astatement.

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"As a long-term investor, it is an important piece of ourinvestment strategy and our mission to provide pension benefits forgenerations to come,” he added.

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The $29.3 billion of initial investments in private equity fundsis now worth $53.5 billion, including the value of the originalinvestment.

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CalPERS’ total fund annual target return is 7.5 percent.

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The new PEARS data shows private equity investments havesurpassed the annual return benchmark for the three, five, 10, and20-year periods, as well as the period marking the inception ofprivate equity in CalPERS’ investment strategy, which began in1990.

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The past three-year return on private equity was 14.1 percent;the five-year return was 14.4 percent; the 10-year return was 11.9percent; the 20-year return was 12.3 percent; since 1990, privateequity returned 11.1 percent.

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For context, the 10-year return on public equity was 7.9percent, according to CalPERS 2014 annual report.

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For that year, global public equity investments accounted for 52percent of the CalPERS’ portfolio, which private equity accountedfor 11 percent.

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For the latest fiscal year, privateequity returns were 8.9 percent net of fees, while returns onpublic equity were 1 percent, reflecting lackluster performance instock markets in the U.S. and abroad.

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Nick Thornton

Nick Thornton is a financial writer covering retirement and health care issues for BenefitsPRO and ALM Media. He greatly enjoys learning from the vast minds in the legal, academic, advisory and money management communities when covering the retirement space. He's also written on international marketing trends, financial institution risk management, defense and energy issues, the restaurant industry in New York City, surfing, cigars, rum, travel, and fishing. When not writing, he's pushing into some land or water.