In Remembrance of Michael Toumanoff


We are saddened to share the news that, after a hard-fought and courageous battle with cancer, our Nossamite colleague Michael V. Toumanoff passed away during the evening of Wednesday, September 13.  Michael will be remembered as a brilliant, warm, insightful, and wonderful person, and he will be greatly missed by his colleagues at Nossaman.

Mr. Toumanoff  attended Harvard as an undergraduate and graduated magna cum laude.  He received his J.D. from the University of California Berkeley School of Law in 1982.

As an attorney, Michael specialized in advising and representing public retirement systems, in California and nationally.  He authored and co-authored formal opinions on many issues concerning California public pension systems, including, in 1993, the first comprehensive opinion on the then newly-enacted Proposition 162 for the State Association of County Retirement Systems (SACRS); the scope of members' vested constitutional rights in a variety of contexts; the financial provisions of the 1937 County Employees Retirement Law under both the regular and alternate provisions in Articles 5 and 5.5; benefit issues; and conflict issues concerning trustees with conflicting public duties. In 1999, as counsel for the Pasadena Fire & Police Retirement System, he negotiated and drafted a $100 million contribution agreement with the City to restore the actuarial soundness of the retirement system.

Throughout the years, Michael has spoken before SACRS, the California Association of Public Retirement Systems, and the Institutional Investor Institute on various issues, including Proposition 162, system funding, and conflicts of interest. He has also presented on fiduciary issues faced by counsel to public retirement systems at various programs sponsored by the National Association of Public Pension Attorneys (NAPPA), where he has served as lead chair of the Fiduciary and Plan Governance Section, as a member of the Executive Board, and then as a member of the NAPPA Emeritus Board.  He also is one of the founders of the Oaks School in Hollywood, California (1986).

Michael was also heavily influenced by his Russian/Georgian heritage and his unusual childhood experience of living in Russia under the Soviet regime.  Fascinating tales of his family history have been published here.

Nossaman colleagues who followed Michael's struggle with cancer over the last 10 months remarked on his strength against all odds and incredible equanimity. He was an example for all of us.

Michael's friends in the public pension community have responded to the news with great sadness, noting what a "kind, warm and compassionate man" he was and expressing their "admiration of him and thanking him for being a part of" their lives.

He is survived by his wife, Laura Whitmore, and three daughters, Alexandra, Victoria and Charlotte Toumanoff.

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