Emerald Infrastructure raises $75m from New York pensions

The Northern Ireland-focused infrastructure fund listed William Howell, a reported friend of New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, as a recipient of sales commissions in a regulatory filing submitted to the SEC.

The Emerald Infrastructure Development Fund has raised $75 million from US investors, according to a regulatory filing submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The fund is targeting $750 million for alternative energy, waste, property development and conventional energy investments in Northern Ireland, according to fundraising database InfrastructureConnect.

The filing does not specify where the money came from. However, a spokesperson for New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson confirmed that four New York City pension funds overseen by his office have to date invested $75 million in the Emerald Infrasructure Development Fund.

In April 2008, Thompson announced that the pension funds would invest $150 million in the fund. A press release from the Comptroller’s office hailed it as “the largest ever public investment from the United States in Northern Ireland”.

Thompson’s office is custodian and investment advisor to the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, the Teachers’ Retirement System of the City of New York, the New York City Police Pension Fund Subchapter Two, New York City Fire Department Pension Fund Subchapter Two and the New York City Board of Education Retirement System.

The SEC filing lists William Howell as a recipient of sales commissions and finder’s fees expenses in connection to the fundraising. The fees amount to two percent of the $75 million, or $1.5 million in total and are payable to Shelbourne Securities, a Massachusetts firm where Howell is registered as a broker with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. 

“The manager is trying to determine if those persons paid or intend to pay any other persons in respect of the offering. This form may be amended when more facts become available”, the filing said.

In April, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo charged former leader of the New York Liberal Party Raymond Harding with receiving $800,000 in sham finder’s fees in connection with a kick-back scandal that rocked the $122 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund. The complaint alleged that $500,000 of the $800,000 came from a person affiliated with Shelbourne Securities.

In May, the Village Voice, a New York City newspaper, reported that Howell had helped arrange three investments for the city’s pension system in the last year and shared fees with other placement agents on millions of other investments in private equity funds. The article also said Howell is a friend of Thompson.

A separate article in the New York Daily News published two days ago said people affiliated with Shelbourne Securities donated more than $60,000 to Thompson's mayoral campaign.

At a Mayoral debate Tuesday night in New York City, Thompson vigorously defended his record against accusations of pay-to-play politics from incumbent Mike Bloomberg. Thompson said “no one has ever received a favor from my office for a campaign contribution ever, and they never will”.

“The city's pension funds have done well. We've outperformed the other large public pension funds in this country,” he added.

Shelbourne Securities did not return a message seeking comment before press time.

The Emerald Infrastructure Development Fund is managed by Emerald Development Managers, a firm set up in 2008 as a successor to venture capital firm Cohen & Company, according to InfrastructureConnect.

Neil Cohen, a New York-based executive officer at the fund, declined comment, citing SEC regulations.