Yale will discontinue its current and future holdings in all known oil companies operating in Sudan as well as future investments in Sudanese government bonds, following a unanimous Feb. 11 Yale Corporation vote, University President Richard Levin announced Wednesday afternoon.
The Investments Office has instructed its investment managers to refrain from acquisitions in seven target companies — Bentini, Higleig, Hi-Tech Petroleum, Nam Fatt, ONGC, PetroChina and Sinopec. Levin said the University currently owns stock in one of the seven companies, a “relatively minor” investment whose holdings may amount to several million dollars.
The decision follows the recommendation of the Corporation’s Committee on Investor Responsibility and a final report by the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility in collaboration with the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School.
Levin said guidelines for divestment from Sudan were devised with great consideration.
“Other schools have done this in a less focused way,” Levin said. “This is based on very careful research. We think Yale is doing this in the most responsible possible way. I am delighted that the Corporation had the courage to stand up for its convictions.”
In 1972, Yale adopted the criteria for responding to concerns about investment holdings outlined in the 1969 book “The Ethical Investor”. The University divested from several companies operating in South Africa in 1978.
The measure brings Yale into compliance with current investment guidelines and will impact future investment decisions more than current holdings, Levin said.
“Our guidelines always pertained to actual holdings and potential future holdings,” Levin said. “Our managers trade stocks every day. It’s important that they be on notice not to acquire any of these stocks. The policies are in a way more important for the prospective action than the retrospective action.”
Nick Robinson LAW ’06, who assisted the ACIR through work at the Law School’s Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, said he also thinks the decision will primarily impact potential future holdings rather than current ones.
“We’re very pleased and we think it’s a thoughtful decision from the Corporation, taking into account the report that the Lowenstein Clinic put out and the tremendous amount of support that the student body gave to this issue,” Robinson said. “With an endowment like this, it’s not necessarily important how much money we have in companies now, but in the future as well.”
Some of the areas — including the oil sector — which the University targeted for divestment have great economic power in the Sudan, said Nahla Ivy, a member of the environmental and social analytics team at Institutional Shareholder Services. The ACIR purchased data from ISS as part of its research into companies operating in the Sudan.
“Definitely the oil sector and in many ways the energy sector have had a heavy footprint in Sudan, but we basically stop short of saying that those revenues support the government which then supports genocide,” Ivy said. “That’s basically an interpretation of what the revenues do.”
In 2003, oil revenue accounted for $1.8 billion of $3.2 billion dollars in total revenues for the Sudanese government, according to the ACIR report dated Jan. 31.