Category Archives: Romania

Press Release: 39 Civil Society Leaders Condemn Harvard University Land Investment Practices

Re-posted from the Croatan Institute~~FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Civil Society Leaders Condemn Harvard University Land Investment Practices:

Open letter to Harvard president demands transparency and responsible investment practices

 Cambridge, MA – April 24th, 2014 – In a letter addressed to Harvard University President Drew Faust, 39 civil society organization leaders express concern about Harvard’s large-scale investments in farmland, plantation forests, and other natural resources across the developing world.

Harvard University’s $32 billion endowment is managed by Harvard Management Company, which has come under criticism for unsustainable management of investments made through wholly-owned, opaque shell companies. Earlier this year, a manager at a Harvard-owned Romanian timber company was arrested for accepting over $1 million in bribes to acquire timberland. Harvard-owned companies have been accused of unsustainable plantation forestry in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, facing lawsuits for destroying native forest and community protests from local farmers’ associations.

“The impact of Harvard’s endowment extends far beyond the gates of Harvard Yard, into communities and ecosystems around the world where the university has secretively acquired hundreds of thousands of acres of land,” noted Joshua Humphreys, president and senior fellow at Croatan Institute.  “With this letter,” he continued, “civil society leaders from across five continents are demanding much greater transparency and accountability for Harvard’s aggressive investments in farmland, forests and natural resources.”

“As leaders of civil society organizations,” said Dan Apfel, Executive Director of the Responsible Endowments Coalition, “we are calling upon Harvard, the largest educational endowment in the world, to be a leader in providing a positive model for sustainable and responsible investing in land and across all of their assets.”

The letter states, “Given the lack of transparency of Harvard’s endowment and Harvard Management Company’s deliberate strategy of investing directly in emerging markets using these kinds of surreptitious tactics, we are concerned that these incidents constitute merely the tip of the iceberg.”

Blake McGhghy, a first-year Harvard student in the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition, commented on the letter: “As students who benefit directly from Harvard’s endowment, we demand that our education not be funded by exploitation or environmental degradation. This show of solidarity from civil society groups legitimizes our concerns. It is time that Harvard respond with transparency, accountability, and responsible investment.”

Harvard University has invested over $3 billion of its endowment in direct natural resource holdings, including dairies in New Zealand, timber plantations in Argentina, farmland in sub-Saharan Africa, industrial agriculture in the Brazilian cerrado, and vineyards in California.

Two weeks ago, Harvard became the first university endowment in the United States to sign the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment. According to these leaders it is essential that these recent developments are translated into more sustainable and responsible practices in the communities and ecosystems directly impacted by your land investments.

The full text of the letter can be seen here or downloaded as a PDF here.

For more information, contact Josh Humphreys at or (910) 292-9590, or Dan Apfel at or (718) 673-8669.


Harvard puts Romanian timberland up for sale

The Harvard Crimson reported last night that Scolopax SRL put 32,000 hectares of Romanian timberland up for sale following last week’s bribery case. This accounts for nearly all of Scolopax’s holdings.

According to the Crimson story,

The documents advertising the sale were posted in Romanian provinces two days after Dragos Lipan Secu, a former contractor for a University subsidiary, was arrested on charges of bribery and money laundering.

Scolopax, a Romanian company owned by Phemus Corporation, a subsidiary of the Harvard Management Company, posted the fliers at the end of January in 21 Romanian provinces.

Here is our statement in response:

When students and alumni join together and demand accountability for Harvard’s out-of-control companies, we do make a difference. But selling the assets of every company in the news is not a solution. Harvard should implement responsible ownership policies at once to prevent future mismanagement and mistakes like Scolopax.

Press Release: Harvard Manager Detained in Romania

CONTACT: Sandra Korn, 796-8052



Managing director of Scolopax accused of accepting bribes

Cambridge, MA—On Tuesday, Romanian authorities detained Dragoș Lipan Secu, the managing director of the Harvard-owned forestry company Scolopax SRL, along with his wife Mariana, for illegal business practices.

Romanian news sources reported that between 2007 and 2008, Mariana and Dragoș Lipan Secu accepted bribes totaling to 4.450.000 leu, or more than $1.3 million USD, in addition to a vacation to Gran Canaria and a Chrysler Sebring car. In exchange, they purchased land on behalf of Scolopax at prices and under conditions favorable to the sellers.

Scolopax SRL is fully owned by Harvard University and directly controlled by Harvard-owned holding company Phemus Corporation. According to Romanian news sources, Scolopax is the largest private owner of forests in Romania, with over 35,000 hectares of land.

Scolopax is the fourth Harvard-owned company to recently come under scrutiny for corporate misconduct. Last summer, Harvard-owned Agricola Brinzal was found guilty of illegal destruction of native forests in Chiloe, Chile. In October 2013, the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition and the Oakland Institute exposed irresponsible labor and environmental standards at two of Harvard’s timber plantations in the Argentinian wetlands, EVASA and Las Misiones.

Agricola Brinzal, EVASA, Las Misiones, and Scolopax are all 99.9 or 100% owned by Harvard, according to the university’s tax filings.

“Harvard currently has no verifiable system of oversight or accountability for the practices of its fully-owned companies,” said Aryt Alasti from the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition. “We are demanding that Harvard adopt a Position of Responsible Ownership that works to maintain legal compliance, fair environmental and labor practices, respect for land rights and non-discrimination policies, and transparency in corporate governance.”

Thus far, Harvard President Drew Faust has failed to respond to RI@Harvard’s request.


BREAKING: Harvard manager detained in Romania on corruption charges

Full press release to come; for now, please see this email we sent to our supporters this morning:

Yesterday, Romanian authorities detained Dragoș Secu, director of 100%-owned Harvard timber company Scolopax, for accepting multi-million dollar bribes and luxury gifts to illegally acquire land on Harvard’s behalf.

Dragoș Lipan-Secu, former managing director of Scolopax, with his wife Mariana . Image via
Dragoș Lipan-Secu, former managing director of Scolopax, with his wife Mariana . Image via

This is foreign direct investment at its worst.

It’s part of an alarming pattern at Harvard Management Company. Yesterday was the third time in recent months that a company owned by Phemus Corporation, a Harvard investment fund, was implicated in an investment scandal.

Last year, a Chilean judge found Harvard guilty of illegally cutting protected forests. In October, student field research exposed environmentally destructive practices by Harvard’s timber companies in northern Argentina.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The RI@H Coalition has been calling on Harvard President Drew Faust to implement responsible ownership policies for more than eight months. It’s a decision you or I could make in a minute: these policies would require Harvard companies to uphold Harvard values.

Yesterday’s news from Romania made one thing clear: We need to make our call even louder.

Will you join us in asking President Faust to require Harvard companies to uphold Harvard values?

Yes, I will click here to send an email to President Faust now.

No, but I will pledge my support for the responsible ownership campaign.

When President Faust lets Harvard investment managers pursue profits at any cost, she does not want the Harvard community to find out. By taking action, you’re helping us call her bluff.