Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CIRM Legal Costs Climb Towards $1 Million

Legal costs at the California stem cell agency are heading towards the $1 million mark this year and could well go higher as it embarks on an ambitious and unusual plan to market state bonds to dig itself out of a financial hole.

Next Thursday, the Governance Subcommittee of the CIRM board of directors is expected to increase payments for its main outside counsel, Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, of San Leandro, Ca., and also for Nancy Koch, who deals with intellectual property issues.

According to the most recent document from CIRM, as of Nov. 30, 2008, Remcho had already been paid $237,545 out of its $450,000 contract for the 2008-09 fiscal year. Also as of Nov. 30, Koch had been paid $82,306 out of a $150,000 contract for this fiscal year.

Their contracts and possibly other legal assistance agreements are up for "amendment" at next Thursday's meeting. The use of that word generally means that CIRM needs authorization for more cash to pay the lawyers.

According to CIRM's Dec. 22, 2008, report on outside services, total contracted legal services for the fiscal year amount to $812,930, including $140,431 for the California State Department of Justice. Not all of the total has been spent, but the budget did not anticipate the need for CIRM to engage in attempting to place state bonds with private investors.

CIRM's annual operational budget, which does not include grant payments, totaled about $13 million when approved last July. The currently contracted legal expenses amount to roughly 6.2 percent of the budget. The agency has also not filled the position of general counsel, which became vacant Aug. 15. It is still looking for a person to fill that position, which is now described as general counsel to the president.

CIRM will run out of money in about seven months unless it generates additional cash. That's because the financially troubled state of California has stopped selling the bonds that CIRM relies on to finance its operations and pay for research. Sphere: Related Content

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