The UC Board of Regents filed an appeal on March 21 in order to overturn an earlier ruling mandating its disclosure of certain investment information.
According to a statement by Charles Robinson, general counsel of the university, the appeal was filed with the First Appellate District in San Francisco in an attempt to overturn a tentative ruling on Oct. 23 made by the Alameda County Superior Court that required the university to release information on investment returns for its $10.7 billion endowment fund.
Reuters America, a media conglomeration, filed the suit, claiming that the UC system did not provide recent data on individual fund details of its investments to Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal, according to UC spokesperson Dianne Klein.
“There is an overwhelming interest in the public being able to know how public money is spent and in being able to monitor the performance of public investments,” said Karl Olson, the attorney who filed the suit on behalf of Reuters.
The university disclosed information on two of its investments with Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in accordance with a similar lawsuit filed in 2003 by the San Jose Mercury News and the Coalition of University Employees — the union that represents most of the university’s clerical staff. However, Olson said that the university released information on an aggregate level with insufficient detail.
Klein said that the case is not about the public’s right to information but is motivated by private commercial interests. Reuters publishes the Venture Capital Journal and the website Private Equity Hub and, according to Klein, has a financial interest in publishing investment information about Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins.
“Reuters has tried to frame this case as one about the public’s right to know,” Klein said. “It is not. To safeguard the public’s right to know, we have the California Public Records Act, which UC fully supports.”
The CPRA mandates that public records be made available for inspection and copying unless an exemption applies. Klein said that the CPRA does not apply in this case because the university has never used the documents that Reuters seeks.
Klein also said that the ruling harms the university’s ability to profit from investment returns. According to Klein, Sequoia, Kleiner Perkins and other firms blacklisted the university from future funds after the 2003 ruling.
Joe Simitian, a former California state senator, authored SB 439 in 2005 to set clear standards for the scope of information that should be disclosed as public records.
“The question is what does the law allow and at what level of detail is disclosure required,” Simitian said.
Contact Matt Trejo at [email protected].