Britt Harris, the chief investment officer of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, is taking part in the exclusive Bilderberg Meetings, an historically secretive conference that has encountered scrutiny and backlash for allegedly aggregating only the rich and powerful.
(June 1, 2012) -- Alongside senators, prime ministers, and banking kingpins, one (perhaps) unusual attendee is currently at this year's Bilderberg meetings: Texas Teacher Retirement System (TRS) CIO Britt Harris.
Harris' presence at the historically secretive three-day event in Chantilly, Virginia, perhaps sheds light on the growing influence of asset owners in the United States and around the world. In November 2011, private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) and Apollo Global Management were selected to manage $6 billion for TRS. Each firm announced that it would receive $3 billion from TRS to manage in separate accounts devoted solely to the scheme. The deal marked a big win for the money management firms, increasingly eager and successful in soaking up pension capital.
For years, conspiracies have swirled over the implications of the secretive meeting Harris is attending. One theory goes so far as to speculate that the Bilderberg participants are responsible for choosing the United States' next president. According to the Canada's Calgary Herald, the conference has already attracted Occupy protesters at the Westfields Marriott, located about 25 miles from the White House. Critics of the meeting disagree with the forum of only the rich and powerful meeting in secrecy.
The meetings, an annual, invitation-only conference consisting of about 150 guests from North America and Western Europe, have been held with the aim of promoting a greater dialogue between both sides of the Atlantic among industry leaders. Participants are chosen for their experience, their knowledge, their standing and their contribution to the selected agenda, according to the Bilderberg website. About one-third of participants are from government and politics, and two-thirds from finance, industry, labour, education and communications.
As described on Bilderberg's website: "Bilderberg takes its name from the hotel in Holland, where the first meeting took place in May 1954. That pioneering meeting grew out of the concern expressed by leading citizens on both sides of the Atlantic that Western Europe and North America were not working together as closely as they should on common problems of critical importance. It was felt that regular, off-the-record discussions would help create a better understanding of the complex forces and major trends affecting Western nations in the difficult post-war period. The Cold War has now ended. But in practically all respects there are more, not fewer, common problems - from trade to jobs, from monetary policy to investment, from ecological challenges to the task of promoting international security. It is hard to think of any major issue in either Europe or North America whose unilateral solution would not have repercussions for the other."
The conference group now posts the participant list on their official website. In the past, moles inside the organization would release the secretive list to journalists, most notably Jim Tucker of the American Free Press.
Along with Harris, attendees at this year's conference include Senator for Massachusetts John Kerry, Executive Chairman of Google Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Barclays Marcus Agius, Fouad Ajami, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, Member of Parliament Nick Boles, Thomas Enders, the CEO of Airbus, Vice Chairman and Global Head of Growth Markets at Goldman Sachs Michael Evans, and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. Partner Kenneth Mehlman.
Read the full list of Bilderberg participants here.