When the California state auditor charged the University of California Office of the President with tampering with confidential responses to the auditor’s survey—an action that then-Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom decried as “outrageous and unjust”—we were retained by the UC Board of Regents to investigate.
The Hueston Hennigan legal team, working with retired California Supreme Court Justice Carlos R. Moreno, conducted a fact-finding review of the events underlying the state auditor’s charges. The investigation was extremely complex, involving dozens of percipient witnesses at the 10 UC campuses as well as at the university’s Office of the President in Oakland. Other complicating factors included a simultaneous parallel investigation undertaken by the state auditor into the same events, as well as issues of lawyer-client privilege and work product arising from the fact that lawyers from the university’s Office of General Counsel were among the percipient witnesses.
Drawing on our experience conducting similarly sensitive investigations at large organizations, our effort involved a thorough review of over 427,000 pertinent pieces of electronic data and documents and interviews with 38 witnesses within the UC system, including campus chancellors and senior high-level university officials such as President Janet Napolitano. We also analyzed, among other things, applicable governance structures within the University of California and generally accepted governmental audit standards, including those cited by the state auditor in her audit report.
On November 16, 2017, we presented a final report to the Board of Regents detailing several instances in which the president’s office tampered with survey results. The report received widespread media attention and resulted in significant actions: two top aides to President Napolitano resigned, and the California State Legislature passed legislation to ensure that such interference in public audits will not recur.
“After [California State Auditor] Howle publicly alleged that [President] Napolitano’s office improperly interfered, the regents commissioned the investigation by former state Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno and the Hueston Hennigan law firm. The investigation found that Napolitano’s chief of staff, Seth Grossman, and deputy chief of staff, Bernie Jones, had pre-screened campus responses ‘with the specific purpose of shaping the responses to be less critical of’ the UC Office of the President.” —Los Angeles Times (November 16, 2017)
“UC regents admonish UC President Janet Napolitano for approval of interference in state audit,” Los Angeles Times (November 16, 2017)
“Napolitano, UC regents both failing Californians in audit fiasco,” The San Diego Union-Tribune (November 21, 2017)
“University of California regents slam Napolitano for interfering with state audit,” San Francisco Business Times (November 16, 2017)