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New motion filed in dispute over UC’s retirement investments data

20 August 2003

In response to a state-court ruling requiring it to publicly disclose the financial health of the venture-capital investments in its portfolio, the University of California on Aug. 6 filed a motion asking Alameda Country Superior Court to reconsider.

The suit arguing for disclosure was brought by the Coalition of University Employees (which represents UC clerical employees), the San Jose Mercury News, and Charles Schwartz, a retired Berkeley professor. The plaintiffs say that UC employees and the public have a compelling interest in knowing how the university’s pension funds are being managed. The Alameda County Superior Court ruled July 24 in the plaintiffs’ favor, saying the performance data did not qualify as a trade secret and that “the public interest in disclosure of internal rates of return clearly outweighs the claimed need to keep them secret.”

The UC Regents maintain that venture-capital firms will refuse to partner with public universities if those institutions are required to publicize sensitive financial information under freedom of information laws. As a result, they say, the university will be shut out of top-tier investment opportunities. In its motion, UC cited two recent incidents — one involving the University of Michigan and another involving UC itself — in which venture-capital firms have backed off from investment arrangements with public institutions, presumably because of information-disclosure rules.