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Wyoming Retirement System fires investment officer

Ben Neary, Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- The Wyoming Retirement System on Monday fired its chief investment officer following federal insider trading charges on transactions that predate his state employment.

Retirement System Executive Director Thomas Williams said he has dismissed Chief Investment Officer John Johnson of Arvada, Colo. The Security and Exchange Commission last month filed insider trading charges against Johnson.

An attempt to reach the Johnson, 46, for comment wasn't successful.

Johnson is charged with buying shares of technology company Foundry Networks Inc. in 2008 after a friend tipped him off that the company was to be sold. According to the complaint, Johnson made $136,000 on the trades.

Federal prosecutors in New York announced that Johnson had pleaded guilty March 18 to separate securities fraud charges related to the same transactions. Court records don't show that a sentencing date has been scheduled.

Johnson started working for the Wyoming Retirement System in 2010.

Williams emphasized that no state funds were involved in any of the trades that prompted the federal charges. The retirement system's current procedures and internal controls would have prevented the use of Wyoming Retirement System funds in such trades, he added.

The Wyoming Retirement System manages more than $6 billion. It retains investment companies that in turn handle the actual stock trades.

Williams said the retirement system board plans to meet Tuesday to talk about its next steps.

"Clearly it's an important position, and we will be moving judiciously to identify a proper replacement for Mr. Johnson," Williams said.

According to the system's website, Johnson has a bachelor's degree in finance from Arizona State University and a master's degree in finance from the University of Colorado.

Williams has said that the Wyoming Retirement System wasn't aware of the federal investigations into Johnson's trading until the Securities and Exchange Commission announced the insider trading charges.