A cross-practice team from the Employment, Compensation & Benefits and Supreme Court and Appellate groups has obtained a complete victory in a high-stakes class action pension benefit case against The Regents of the University of California. After siding with our arguments in granting summary judgment on all class claims last September, an Alameda County Superior Court judge this week issued a ruling rejecting all of the plaintiffs remaining claims following an October 2019 trial.
In Broome v. Regents, the plaintiffs claimed they were entitled to additional pension benefits pursuant to a 1999 Regents Resolution and a draft additional pension benefit plan that obtained IRS approval in 2007, but that UC’s President did not implement thereafter because the Chairman of the Board of Regents and the Chairman of the Committee on Finance agreed with the President that the draft plan should not be implemented. The plaintiffs asserted breach of contract, breach of covenant, Constitutional impairment of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, equitable estoppel, promissory estoppel, declaratory relief, and writ of mandate. The class claims exposed the UC retirement system to tens of millions of dollars in potential liability.
Superior Court Judge Michael Markman granted The Regents’ summary judgment motion on all 5 class claims, and denied the plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion in its entirety. Judge Markman agreed with our primary arguments that the 1999 Resolution did not show a clear legislative intent to create private contract rights, and that The Regents did not breach a fiduciary duty in refusing to implement the plan.
In October 2019, the Court held a bench trial on the named plaintiffs’ remaining claims for promissory estoppel and declaratory relief. Our trial team was led by partner Joe Liburt and senior associate Emily Taylor. After considering the parties’ post-trial briefing, Judge Markman concluded that the plaintiffs “have not carried their burden as to any of the four elements of a promissory estoppel claim.” Judge Markman also found that Plaintiff’s claims for declaratory relief were derivative of their promissory estoppel claims and therefore also failed.
In addition to Joe and Emily, the Orrick trial team included Bill Berry, Leo Moniz, Ben Buchwalter, Lenny Patts, and Denise Montiel. Others who have made significant contributions to the case over the years are Yvonne Nyborg, Necia Hobbes, Steve Chariyasatit, David Smith, Shannon Seekao, Lorenzo Lista, Eric Shumsky, Carolyn Frantz, Ethan Fallon, Tina McBride and Betty Orozco.