Public Interest & Nonprofits
Our public interest and nonprofit practice is built on a groundbreaking model of affirmative litigation that strategically organizes public agencies, nonprofit organizations, and individuals. This model was developed by Louise Renne and Jon Holtzman over a decade ago at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office. Ms. Renne and Mr. Holtzman reinvented municipal law by filing class actions against tobacco, insurance companies, energy producers, national banks, gun and lead paint manufacturers, and escrow companies. These suits served as a vehicle for cities, counties, utility districts, and non- governmental organizations to cooperatively and effectively end fraudulent, harmful, or deceptive practices that were against the public’s interest.
RPLG continues this proven approach to public sector litigation by representing and organizing public agencies, nonprofit organizations, and individuals in public interest and consumer protection litigation. Our public interest and nonprofit litigation matters have concerned insurance broker abuse claims by public agencies against the primary California insurance brokers, elder financial abuse, affordable housing disputes, and alcoholic beverages targeted at minors.
Some of the cases our attorneys have previously organized and directed include:
- Representation of cities and counties throughout California in lawsuits against the tobacco industry, resulting in over $25 billion recovered on behalf of California local government agencies. San Francisco’s share of the recovery is estimated to be $585 million over 25 years.
- Representation of over 300 California cities and counties in a False Claims Act whistleblower lawsuit against Bank of America. The lawsuit alleged that proceeds from as many as 14,000 bond issues valued at $100 billion and managed by the bank since the 1940s had been illegally retained by the bank. Local governments recovered $187.5 million in this lawsuit.
- Representation of public agencies in a $50 million lawsuit against Old Republic Title, alleging that the company engaged in a scheme to collect illegal interest payments on escrow accounts. Subsequently, the Department of Insurance initiated an investigation and the State Controller filed suit. The suit ultimately recovered $8 million for the City and County of San Francisco.
- While serving as General Counsel for the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), Ms. Renne uncovered a nation-wide scandal, known as the “e-rate” scandal, in which numerous technology vendors and computer consultants conspired to defraud a federal government program of millions of dollars intended for the purchase of computer equipment for public schools. As part of a settlement with one company, a total of almost $16 million was paid to the federal government, of which SFUSD received $3.3 million. Representation of California cities and counties in a lawsuit which successfully prevented tobacco companies from targeting minors in advertising. The lawsuit,
often referred to as the “Joe Camel” case, resulted in a settlement in which Camel agreed to cease advertising directed at minors.
- Recovered $43.1 million for SFUSD in a breach of contract and False Claims Act lawsuit against a Fortune 250 company.