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The nation’s largest pension fund settled a public records dispute over its refusal to release performance data on venture capital investments. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System formally agreed on Friday to begin publishing the returns of most of its private equity investments, ending a lawsuit with the San Jose Mercury News. “It’s a major step forward for the public’s right to know and this is going to help shed light on the venture capital industry,” said Karl Olson, a partner at San Francisco’s Levy, Ram & Olson. Olson is regular outside counsel for The Recorder. Olson represented the Mercury News in San Jose Mercury News v. California Public Employees’ Retirement System, 02-501902, alongside Capitola, Calif.-based Judy Alexander, of Winn & Alexander. A CalPERS spokeswoman did not return a call for comment about its settlement by press time. CalPERS had refused to release the returns, claiming the performance numbers were trade secrets owned by the individual venture capital funds. Pension officials also said they were barred from making the information public because of confidentiality agreements with the VCs. Olson had argued the information should be public because the venture capitalists had agreed to take public funds. San Francisco Superior Court Judge A. James Robertson II tentatively ruled last month that the information should be released. Friday’s settlement was contingent on the agreement of a possible third party to the lawsuit, Grove Street Advisors, to withdraw its motion to be a party in the suit, Olson said. Grove Street contracts with CalPERS to make private equity investments on the pension’s behalf. Olson said the settlement calls for CalPERS to release information on investments its own officials made, but it will not make public the performance data on the funds that Grove Street controls. Within days, the pension is expected to release data from the second quarter of this year. Following the initial release, data will be made public quarterly, Olson said. Steven Franklin, who represents venture capitalists, said the settlement stopped short of the pension disclosing information about venture capital portfolio companies. “They drew the line at an appropriate point,” said Franklin, a partner at Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian. “The real concern from a business-impact standpoint was the portfolio company info and that wasn’t part of the settlement.” The pension’s decision to settle was not surprising given the recent decision by another large state pension to release its data. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System released performance figures earlier this month. Public pension funds in Texas, Washington and Oregon have done the same in response to similar public records demands.

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