Three years after students first protested Yale’s investments in HEI Hotels & Resorts, the University has announced it will not invest further in funds managed by the company.
Yale’s investment decision, which was announced Nov. 18 on the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility’s website, makes the University the third Ivy League school to halt future investments in HEI. But while Brown University made its decision based on accusations of unethical labor practices against HEI, Nigel Hurst, senior vice president of human resources for HEI, said a Yale representative told him that the University was motivated by “purely portfolio reasons.” Yale will remain committed to its current investments in three of HEI’s real estate funds, Hurst said, and has only decided not to invest in a fourth new fund.
“Ethical reasons were never mentioned,” Hurst said Monday, adding that the University can still commit to other HEI investment opportunities in the future.
Jonathan Macey, chair of Yale’s investor responsibility committee, said Monday that Chief Investment Officer David Swensen informed him of the Investments Office’s decision earlier this month, and noted that it did not follow from a recommendation of Macey’s committee. Swensen declined to comment for this article, and Macey said he could not know for sure what brought about the decision.
HEI first came under fire in fall 2008 when students at universities across the country protested the company for allegedly mistreating its workers and interfering with their unionization efforts. At Yale, the Undergraduate Organizing Committee arranged a sit-in at the Investments Office in November 2008 to express disapproval of the University’s connection to the company.
Though Yale’s investor responsibility committee has gathered information on the HEI controversy over the past two years through discussions with student organizations, union leaders and representatives of the hotel management company, Macey said the committee did not find HEI’s practices to be in conflict with the University’s ethical investing guidelines. Yale’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility works with a Yale Corporation committee to recommend investment policy to the Corporation as a whole.
Brown decided to refrain from making additional investments in HEI on the recommendation of its own investments responsibility committee in February, and the University of Pennsylvania soon followed suit by announcing it also did not have plans for future investments. At the time, Macey said Brown’s decision would likely not cause Yale to make similar policy changes without “additional meaningful facts.”
Mac Herring ’12, a member of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, said though she was pleased by Yale’s decision, she does not think the choice was ethically motivated.
“I would sincerely doubt that the Investments Office did it out of the goodness of their heart,” Herring said.
HEI uses money committed by investors to buy hotels and resorts, and those investors — such as Yale — earn returns on their contributions when HEI sells its purchases. Most commitments are made over roughly five-year time frames.