Fairfax County Invests Total of $21 Million in Blockchain VC Fund

Fairfax County Retirement Systems has released details about its investment in a blockchain fund, apparently to quell fears about it.

AccessTimeIconFeb 14, 2019 at 5:31 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 8:53 a.m. UTC
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Fairfax County Retirement Systems has released details about its investment in a blockchain fund, seemingly to quell fears about the Virginia municipality's two pension funds taking on exposure to cryptocurrency.

"Given that this technology is what has been used to create and run the cryptocurrency markets, you may be concerned that these are investments in bitcoin or other electronic currencies," the retirement systems' executive director, Jeff Weiler, wrote in an FAQ on the county's website before going on to explain this was not the case.

As previously reported, the two pension funds are anchor investors in the $40 million venture fund announced this week by Morgan Creek, in what appeared to be the first such bets on the sector placed by institutions of this kind.

In his FAQ, Weiler revealed the exact breakdown of Fairfax's commitments: $10 million from the county employees' pension fund, and $11 million from the police officers' fund.

To put those figures in perspective, however, they represent just 0.3 percent of the employee fund's assets and 0.8 percent of the police officer fund's, he noted, adding:

"These investments were deliberately sized to be a small portion of each system’s assets, given that the blockchain technology industry is still in its early stages."

Moreover, the vast majority – at least 85 percent – of the Morgan Creek Blockchain Opportunities Fund will be invested in blockchain technology firms, Weiler wrote, noting: "As such, this is very similar to other private equity investments made by Fairfax’s three retirement systems."

No more than 15 percent of the fund will be put into cryptocurrency, and so far none of it has been, he added.

Due diligence

Weiler went on to describe the pension funds' due diligence on the investment, noting that staff and board members of both funds traveled to Chapel Hill, N.C., where Morgan Creek is based, to meet with the team there. Further, Morgan Creek made presentations to both funds' boards at their monthly meetings, where the proposed investments were discussed at length.

"County attorneys and outside investment counsel spent a lot of time and energy ironing out the details of the investment contracts, to ensure that Fairfax County’s interests were assured," Weiler added.

His note also included an overview of blockchain technology that emphasized that its potential applications go beyond cryptocurrency and include things such as identity verification and voting.

Weiler concluded his note with a timeless reminder that all investments carry some risk, but assured the public that the pension funds had limited their downside, saying:

"Fairfax’s investment team determined that the expected returns from this investment were in line with the level of risk incurred. This also played a big part in how much was invested."

Morgan Creek's Anthony Pompliano image via CoinDesk archives. 

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