Continuing its efforts to foster the University’s public disclosure of private equity investments, a coalition of student and graduate student union organizers sent a letter outlining its mission Tuesday to Farallon Capital Management, a firm that privately manages equity capital for Yale and many other college endowments.
Four members of the Yale community and 13 members of organizations on nine other campuses that belong to the Unfarallon Coalition — a group dedicated to obtaining greater investment disclosure from Farallon — signed a message addressed to Farallon founder and senior managing member Tom Steyer ’79, asking him to make public more of the hedge fund’s university endowment capital investments. In addition to a request for quarterly disclosure reports, the letter also asks Farallon — which privately manages $9.86 billion in equity capital, according to the Institutional Investor — to refrain from punishing universities whose investment offices agree to disclose such information.
“We’re hoping to make it clear that the universities can be leaders in terms of disclosure and that Farallon can be a leader in terms of disclosure,” said Phoebe Rounds ’07, who signed the Unfarallon letter on behalf of the Yale Undergraduate Organizing Committee.
But Provost Andrew Hamilton said the University’s current policy is fair.
“Our overarching practice is to follow a responsible investment strategy that conforms to all appropriate regulations and does its best to maximize returns on the endowment for critical support of the core mission of the institution,” he said.
Unfarallon supporters worry that undisclosed investments may not be socially responsible, Carlos Poza ’06, who signed the letter to Steyer on behalf of the Yale Student Environmental Coalition, said.
“The big issue is transparency and letting the students know what it’s doing,” Poza said.
Rounds said Farallon’s investments of Yale’s capital should be more fully disclosed because they are of concern to the entire Yale community.
“We as stakeholders have an interest in having information as to where Yale’s money and our money is being invested,” she said. “We’re all very invested with this University. We want to see it have good returns, and we want it to do well, but we want it to happen within the context of its mission as an educational institution.”
Through his office, Steyer declined to comment on the Unfarallon letter. A Farallon spokesman who asked to remain anonymous said he could not comment on the specifics of this issue.
“We have just received that communication and are just now reviewing it,” he said.
Rounds said the letter to Steyer follows a so-far unsuccessful attempt by Yale’s Unfarallon supporters — including the Graduate Students and Employees Organization — to discuss the University’s investments in greater detail with University Chief Investment Officer David Swensen. The campaign sent Swensen a letter Oct. 12 to arrange a meeting, but the Investments Office has not yet responded, she said.
The dialogue with the Investments Office is crucial because Yale’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility is not privy to private equity investment information, Rounds said.
The Yale Investments Office declined to comment.
Rounds said Yale should be more responsible than other universities in terms of investment disclosure because its investments in hedge funds serve as a model for others. According to a 2003 study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, universities with large endowments now invest an average of 19.9 percent of their endowments in hedge funds, in contrast to almost no such investment in 1980.
“David Swensen was very instrumental in creating that shift,” Rounds said. “He was kind of the pioneer in doing that. I think that our campaign is really setting the standard in calling for accountability in a new context.”
The Unfarallon campaign has begun an online petition for investment disclosure, Rounds said. Members from Yale plan to deliver the petition to the Investments Office Nov. 16 following a teach-in scheduled for that afternoon.