The San Juan Daily Star
Appeals court: UPR’s retirement board, not governing board, is trust holder of pension system
By The Star Staff
The Puerto Rico Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling that decided that the University of Puerto Rico Retirement Board (JR-UPR by its Spanish initials) is the trust holder of the university’s retirement system and not the UPR governing board.
The lower court ruling against the UPR governing board was issued in July by the Superior Court. That decision granted validity to the certifications issued by the JR-UPR in matters of the Retirement System Trust.
This week’s ruling occurs as the JR-UPR is transitioning with the UPR governing board to the payroll and human resources systems of the retirement system. A prior order in October 2020 granted the retirement system’s trusteeship to the JR-UPR, reiterated on multiple occasions by the courts.
“Basically, what this decision says is what the [Superior Court] established about the validity of the JR-UPR certifications and that the governing board cannot seek deception to try to put the trustee under a university body,” JR-UPR Chairman Luis Vicenty Santini said. “If the UPR governing board wants to do something concerning the certifications issued by the JR-UPR, it has to go through a separate lawsuit to question their validity. Therefore, this decision raises the autonomy of the trust and what the trust can do with its employees.”
The Superior Court’s ruling last July arose due to a lawsuit by the JR-UPR against the UPR governing board for refusing to comply with a certification issued by the JR-UPR to grant its employees paid days off at Christmas. The Superior Court ruled in favor of the JR-UPR in June and reiterated its decision in July after the UPR governing board asked the court to reconsider its ruling.
“We hope that this case is already over, that there is no more litigation by the governing board’s lawyers, that UPR continues its transition, and that there are no more attempts to change this historic decision in favor of all active and retired participants of the UPR Retirement System,” Vicenty Santini said.
Regarding the transition currently underway, the university official expressed optimism and said the process had allowed the pensions in arrears to be resolved and that they are very close to lowering the waiting period to the statutory three months for processing a pension.
“We already have seven new employees in the Retirement System; there are still 13 more positions to fill,” he said. “In addition, we already have the necessary staff for the Office of Human Resources, so this transition is already taking shape.”
The JR-UPR is the official trustee of the Defined Benefits Trust of the UPR Retirement System. The most recent report presented by the actuaries of the UPR Retirement System establishes a return on investment of 24.13%, much higher than expected. With such a significant return on investment and sound fiscal management, Vicenty Santini said, the JR-UPR has extended the fund’s life for more than 30 years. Last year, the UPR Retirement System ranked fifth in return on investment among public retirement systems in the United States, with a net profit of over $700 million.