Enron tied to several universities

After Enron declared bankruptcy in December, the former Fortune 500 company’s collapse has unraveled into one of the largest financial scandals in history. The scandal has now stretched beyond business and political circles and into educational ones, as Enron had ties to many universities around the nation.

At the end of the quarter ending March 31 of last year, Yale owned 6,000 shares of Enron Corporation valued at $349,000, according to a 13-F form that the University files with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The majority of Yale’s investments are managed by outside professionals, and the filing shows the relatively small number of assets the University owns in its own name. It can only provide a snapshot of the securities held on a single day, the last of the quarter.

Therefore, it is impossible to say how Yale acquired the stock or if it made or lost money on it. The University no longer owned the stock on June 30, according to the next 13-F form Yale filed.

Investment officials have a policy of not commenting on endowment holdings.

Enron is a Houston-based company that specializes in energy, commodities and services.

At Harvard University, the Enron controversy hit closer to home. Herbert S. Winokur Jr., a member of the Harvard Corporation, which is Harvard’s executive governing body, also served on the Enron board of directors.

A group of students and alumni known as HarvardWatch have alleged that Winokur may have given inside knowledge on Enron stock and thereby allowed Harvard to profit off Enron’s collapse. The group, however, admitted to The New York Times that it had no evidence of any wrongdoing, and that in addition Winokur has no direct involvement with managing the endowment.

“Mr. Winokur is a valued member of the Harvard Corporation. We understand that he is assisting in the Enron investigations now under way,” a spokesperson for Harvard said. “The University is reviewing the situation for any developments that have a genuine bearing on Harvard.”

Economics professor Robert Shiller said that the investigation surrounding Enron should not turn into a witch hunt where anyone with any connection to Enron is damaged. He added that this question often emerges when a person is a member of the board of directors of two different companies.

“These people have connections and beliefs,” Shiller said. “But if you want someone who’s not going to be in any compromising situation you need to have a priest.”

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