US - The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) has appointed James Lasher as senior portfolio manager of its real estate housing portfolio.

In the newly-created position, Lasher will be responsible for managing CalPERS's real estate housing programme, which includes 20 funds focused on residential land and development sponsored by seven investment managers, and which owned approximately 288,000 single-family housing lots across 20 US states in November 2008.

"The US housing market is facing continued challenges," said Ted Eliopoulos, interim chief investment officer for CalPERS.

"The financial sophistication, transactional experience, and real estate understanding that Jamie brings will help us realise the long-term potential that our housing portfolio offers," he continued.

Lasher will report to Eliopoulos, the senior investment officer for real estate, but joined CalPERS last week from Piedmont Property Partners, a property investment and advisory company that he set up in 2008.

Lasher's previous roles include providing strategic advice and corporate finance solutions to real estate companies on behalf of Morgan Stanley and later Bank of America.

Prior to starting in investment banking in 1997, Lasher worked on real estate development, acquisition and finance for two real estate firm on the west coast.

As well as this new appointment, CalPERS' Board of Administration announced last week its members had unanimously re-elected Rob Feckner for a fifth term as the pension fund's president and George Diehr as vice president for a second year.

"We face some formidable challenges in the months ahead, in our economy and in our financial markets. I want to take this opportunity to let our members and employers know that we will work hard to protect their retirement and health security, and be mindful that this is a difficult time for everyone," said Feckner.

Feckner, first elected to the board in 1998, is currently president of the California School Employees Association and is on the association's board of directors. He is responsible for overseeing the board's business, setting meeting schedules, making appointments for board policy committees and representing CalPERS to outside parties.

Diehr was first appointed to the board in 2002 and is chairman of the investment committee and vice chairman of the policy sub-committee.

Commenting on his re-election, Diehr, said: "Our top priorities will be market reforms at a national level, finding creative solutions to reduce healthcare costs, and protecting our members' and employers' assets."

CalPERS is the largest public pension fund in the US, providing benefits for over 1.6 million public employees and retirees and with over $171bn (€133.6bn) in market assets.

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