University to divest from four companies connected to Sudan

University officials announced Thursday that the university will divest all directly held investments it may hold in PetroChina, ABB Ltd., Sinopec and Tatneft because of their business operations in support of the Sudanese government, whose actions in Darfur have been condemned universally, including by a unanimous censure vote of the U.S. Congress.

The decision to divest was made by the university's Board of Trustees on Tuesday, June 7, based on a recommendation made by the Special Committee on Investment Responsibility (SCIR). Stanford will send letters to its investment managers recommending that they also divest their holdings in these companies. Stanford will vote its proxies in support of this position.

The SCIR, whose members are trustees, made the recommendation based on a report submitted by the Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility (APIR), whose members include faculty, staff, students and alumni approved by the president of the university. That group, which is charged with advising the president and trustees on investment responsibility matters, had met with student members of the Stanford group Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND).

The Stanford University Statement on Investment Responsibility Concerning Endowment Securities allows the university trustees to act based on their judgment of corporate policies or practices that cause "substantial social injury."

"Divestment is an act that should be made rarely and carefully," said Stanford President John Hennessy. "In this case, it was clear that the genocide occurring in Darfur, which appears to be at least partly enabled by these four companies, is in direct opposition to Stanford University's principles."

Hennessy announced the divestment decision at the Faculty Senate meeting last week and received a boisterous round of applause. He then thanked the students for the work they did that led to divestment.

"The students who put together this petition did an amazingly good job," Hennessy said. "They were selective in choosing a set of companies for which there was a more clear-cut connection, and they did a good job of assembling the evidence, I think, which really convinced APIR, which in turn convinced SCIR. So they really deserve a round of thanks for how they put this case together."

Business Professor George Parker, chair of APIR, also praised students for their diligence in providing a thorough proposal for divestment.

"I would have to compliment the students on a very carefully prepared, well-reasoned presentation to the committee," Parker said. "All members of the advisory panel would echo that sentiment as well. Presentations make a difference. The research they did and the way they fleshed it out was very helpful."

Student leaders praised the university for its quick response to concerns that were brought to the SCIR only three months ago.

"We are thrilled that we got this done in three months," said Ben Elberger, one of the co-leaders of the divestment effort for the group STAND. "We think the process did work on this matter. There were certainly ups and downs along the way and there were things that can be done better, but overall we're very pleased and it seemed the university was very proactive in responding to our concerns."