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Baez v. California Public Employees' Retirement System

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Second Division

May 8, 2015

CESAR BAEZ, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
CALIFORNIA PUBLIC EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM et al. Defendants and Respondents.

[CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION[*]]

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County No. BC498010. Michael L. Stern, Judge.

Page 837

COUNSEL

Meylan Davitt Jain Arevian & Kim, Robert L. Meylan, Vincent J. Davitt, Benedetto L. Balding; Schlam Stone & Dolan, Jeffrey M. Eilender and Elizabeth Wolstein, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

K&L Gates, Christopher J. Kondon, Matthew B. O’Hanlon, and Saman M. Rejali, for Defendant and Respondent California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

Soltman, Levitt, Flaherty & Wattles, Kevin S. Wattles and Lisa R. Kamrath, for Defendant and Respondent Joseph Dear.

OPINION

HOFFSTADT, J.

This appeal presents the following question: Does a plaintiff who alleges he was treated differently because he is Latino state a claim for relief under the anti-affirmative action provision originally enacted as Proposition 209 and now codified in Article I, section 31 of the California Constitution? We conclude he does not, and agree with the trial court on this point. We nevertheless reverse the trial court’s order dismissing this and other claims on demurrer because the plaintiff in this case has demonstrated a

Page 838

reasonable possibility of amending his complaint and, as we discuss in the unpublished portion of this opinion, because dismissal of plaintiff’s remaining claims was improper.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Cesar Baez (plaintiff) and two others signed two agreements forming (and dividing the profits earned by) two different companies-Centinela Investment Partners, LLC and Centinela Group, LLC. Of the three partners, two (including plaintiff) are Latino; the third is black. Defendant California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) is charged with managing the investments that fund the pensions of California state employees. CalPERS hired plaintiff and his partners to manage two $500 million investment funds. To effectuate this arrangement, plaintiff and his partners created two new entities that they (through the two Centinela entities named above) co-owned with CalPERS: (1) Centinela Holdings LLC, to serve as the two funds’ manager; and (2) Centinela Capital Partners LLC, to serve as the two funds’ investment advisor.

At some point thereafter, the California Attorney General began investigating whether CalPERS was unlawfully awarding contracts at the behest of influence peddlers called “placement agents.” Believing plaintiff to be “associate[d] with several businessmen and individuals” under investigation, defendant Joseph Dear, CalPERS chief investment officer at the time, informed plaintiff’s two partners that CalPERS would not award the Centinela entities a third fund to manage as long as plaintiff was still an active participant in those entities. Plaintiff subsequently signed a separation agreement ...


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