Koret trial underway in S.F. court

A lawsuit filed 19 months ago by the widow of Koret Foundation founder Joseph Koret went to trial this week in San Francisco Superior Court.

Susan Koret alleges conflict of interest and financial impropriety on the part of longtime Koret Foundation president Tad Taube and other board members. Taube was the foundation’s president for 32 years, through June 2014.

Accusing Taube and the others of “self-interested grantmaking” and straying “from the core mission of the foundation” — which includes aiding the poor and strengthening the Jewish community — Susan Koret is seeking the removal of board members Taube and San Francisco tax attorney Richard Greene.

Opening statements were made April 18 before Judge Curtis Karnow. The trial is expected to last from two weeks to a month.

The suit further accuses Taube of sexually harassing female employees and grant recipients. Introduced into the trial is a deposition from former Koret staffer Kristin Mickelwaite, who testified that Taube pressured her to date an associate of his.

A spokesperson for the Koret Foundation responded: “We are disappointed by Mrs. Koret’s repeated attempts over the years to undermine the Koret Foundation.

“Importantly, we have never been distracted by her actions and remain fully focused on supporting organizations that improve the quality of life throughout the Bay Area and beyond, and promote Jewish causes worldwide. We remain highly confident in our legal position and that we will prevail in the trial.”

Among those scheduled to testify in the trial are Koret chief operating officer Tina Frank, Bay Area philanthropist Bernard Osher and Susan Koret, who was named Koret Foundation chairwoman for life in her late husband’s will. Also testifying are Koret Foundation CEO Jeff Farber; Koret Foundation board members Abraham Sofaer, a former federal judge and legal advisor to the State Department, along with Anita Friedman, executive director of the S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services; and Mickelwaite.

Founded in 1979, the Koret Foundation has issued $500 million over the years in grants supporting education, hospitals, San Francisco institutions, the arts, and Jewish life in the Bay Area, Poland and Israel.

It has also given funds to conservative organizations such as the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. — j. staff