Report may prompt Sudan divestment

Amid campus debate on Yale’s possible holdings in companies that invest in Sudan, a University committee is working on a report that may prompt divestment from some of the stocks in its investment portfolio.

In the coming months, members of the Yale Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility said the committee will submit a set of recommendations listing companies of concern to a Yale Corporation subcommittee, which will consider divestment as a possible response to the report’s claims. Yale President Richard Levin said the University will discontinue investment in Sudan if the Corporation Committee on Investor Responsibility recommends this course of action.

“If the committee recommended divestment, the University would take action,” Levin said. “If that’s what the Corporation committee recommends, the Investment Office will not make any future investments in Sudan.”

The report will examine the companies Yale invests in and determine the nature of their involvement in Sudan, ACIR chair Geert Rouwenhorst said. The committee will advise the University to negotiate with the companies to reform their practices, but will suggest divestment if these measures do not work, Rouwenhorst said.

“If we happen to hold some of these stocks that are problematic, the report will recommend some action which may differ from company to company,” Rouwenhorst said. “If a company were to act in a way to cause great social injury and if it was impossible or unlikely that constructive engagement with this company would lead to an improvement for the people of the Sudan, the last resort would be divestment.”

The results of the ACIR report’s research so far have been worthwhile, said Nick Robinson LAW ’06, who works for the Law School’s Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, which is assisting ACIR on the report.

“I feel like it’s going very well. We’ve been able to determine a lot of information about several of the companies that are there that I don’t think other universities have dug up,” Robinson said. “I think it’s been very worth the effort to research the companies themselves.”

Some Yale students have criticized the University for not publicly disclosing its corporate holdings, some of which may have ties to Sudan. A Corporation decision to divest from Sudan would represent a significant improvement, Undergraduate Organizing Committee member Phoebe Rounds ’07 said.

“We don’t actually know how much and where they’re invested in Sudan because they won’t tell us, and they need to do that,” Rounds said. “I think if the committee acts, this would be an amazing step forward for the University by providing that transparency in the future.”

Earlier this month, the Yale chapter of Students Taking Action Now: Darfur launched an online divestment petition that has collected 690 signatures so far, according to the organization’s Web site. The purpose of the petition is to show that there are people in the Yale community who are concerned about how their money is used, STAND co-chair Eric Bloom ’08 said.

“We’re planning to collect signatures on the online petition until that report is submitted, at which point we will also submit signatures to supplement the work the advisory committee is doing,” Bloom said.

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