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An Alameda County Superior Court has ordered the University of California to make public the investment returns of its public employee pension fund. The ruling — the latest in a series of victories for pensioners seeking to make such data more accessible — ordered UC regents to disclose the returns of the 94 venture capital funds in the University of California portfolio. Judge James Richman’s Thursday ruling in Coalition of University Employees v. The Regents of the University of California, 03-089302, also forces regents to disclose transcripts of closed meetings where they have discussed the employee pension’s venture capital investment strategy. Karl Olson, a partner at San Francisco’s Levy, Ram & Olson who represented 18,000 employees, said the workers had watched their endowment shrink by nearly 11 percent last year because of soured investments. (Olson is regular outside counsel for The Recorder.) “CUE’s members were really concerned,” Olson said. “It’s their money. It’s their retirement portfolio that’s at stake here.” Jerome Falk Jr., a partner at Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin who represented the regents, said the school will likely appeal the decision. “Financial information has always been treated by the VC industry as confidential,” Falk said. “The price of being allowed to invest in one of these funds is that you agree to keep it confidential.” The case was similar to a dispute last year against the California Public Employees’ Retirement System in which Olson represented the San Jose Mercury News in its demand for the performance data, known as an internal rate of return, or IRR. The pension ultimately settled the case and made the information public. Pensions have typically argued that VC funds’ performance, “indeed, that perhaps the dire predictions are false.” UC officials had also argued that they signed confidentiality agreements preventing them from disclosing information about the VC funds. Richman, however, said their promises didn’t mean much. “Certainly,” Richman wrote, “the mere contract for confidentiality cannot shield the IRRs from production” of the information.

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