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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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Princeton to disassociate from Darfur investments

Princeton University has acted to prevent future investment in companies complicit in genocide in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

While the University currently has no direct holdings in companies operating in the Sudan, the finance committee of the University's Board of Trustees voted today (June 5) to adopt a policy of disassociating from companies that directly or indirectly conduct operations in Darfur that support acts of genocide, and to prevent future investment in such companies.

"We do not directly hold equity in any company doing business in the Sudan, and we have instructed our investment managers not to purchase stocks in specified companies in the future," said Christopher McCrudden, the University's vice president for finance and treasurer. "We're also talking to managers of commingled funds in which we invest that give us indirect positions in these specified companies. We are discussing with the managers potential paths for avoiding association with these companies in the future."

Letters have been sent to five companies identified as active in the Sudan in which the University may have a low level of indirect involvement through mutual funds or other commingled investments: PetroChina, Sinopec, Tatneft, ABB Ltd. and Bharat Heavy Electronics.

"Companies are being evaluated to determine the effect of their presence in Darfur, particularly as it may relate to the fledgling peace efforts announced last month," McCrudden said. "The dialogue with ABB Ltd. has already begun and the initial information received has been encouraging."

Companies unwilling to engage in a dialogue with Princeton, or who cannot demonstrate a positive presence in Darfur, will be placed on a list of securities that the managers of the University's accounts are prevented from purchasing. The University will continue the process of identifying, engaging and evaluating companies' presence in the Sudan throughout the summer.

The trustees approved the policy after the resources committee of the Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) in March asked the board to adopt a position on investments in the Sudan.

The CPUC is an advisory group made up of Princeton's top administrators, faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students, and alumni that considers matters related to the University's policies, governance and general welfare.

Based on University guidelines established in 1997 for socially responsible investment, the resources committee determined that there was "considerable, thoughtful and sustained" campus interest in the Darfur conflict and widespread consensus that action should be taken. The committee recommended that the University disassociate from any company actively conducting operations in the Sudan that supports acts of genocide or renders assistance to perpetrators of genocide.

The committee recommended that assistance be defined to include:

  • providing significant revenue directly or indirectly to those sponsoring, committing or allowing genocide;
  • providing the instrumentalities with which to commit genocide where the company knows or should know that those instrumentalities would be used to commit genocide;
  • providing aid to perpetrators directly or indirectly that amounts to participation in acts of genocide.

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