Category Archives: United States

Harvard purchases $60mil+ in California vineyards

As the Crimson reported yesterday, Harvard has purchased around $60 million of vinelands in California through Brodiaea, a fully-owned company.

Harvard Management Company, the in-house management firm that oversees the University’s $32.7 billion endowment, has continued its strategy of investing in natural resources by purchasing millions of dollars’ worth of vineyard land in central California, according to University tax filings and recent reports of purchases in the region.

Brodiaea, a Delaware-based corporation that is entirely owned by the University, paid $10.1 million in February for more than 7,500 acres in Santa Barbara County, according to a report last month by the Farmland Investor Center, a market research firm. David Hamel, an appraiser quoted in the report, estimated that the University, through Brodiaea, has so far paid $61 million for more than 10,000 acres in the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties.

Kevin Galvin, a spokesperson for the University, confirmed that HMC owns the land described in the reports. Galvin declined to comment on how much was paid for the acres.

HMC’s new holdings come in a region where the quality of land and grapes is rising, according to Michael Fritz, the author of the story which first reported the purchases. “If you can get in in the early days before the land prices skyrocket, you’re better able to harvest returns as time passes,” Fritz said in an interview with The Crimson.

Farmland Investor Center wonders “if Brodiaea was a well-timed water play in light of the region’s worsening groundwater shortage.” As the market research reporter writes,

“Last August, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors adopted an “urgency” ordinance that prohibits any new development or new irrigated crop production unless the water it uses is offset by an equal amount of conservation. Water levels in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin have fallen sharply in recent years—two to six feet a year in some areas—causing wells to go dry and forcing many vineyards and rural residents to drill deeper wells, according to local accounts. The irrigation development restriction remains in place through August 26, 2015. The basin supplies water for 40% of the county’s agriculture sector.”

According to Harvard’s manager there, though, “the timing of Brodiaea’s irrigated land purchases in San Luis Obispo County and the subsequent moratorium on new irrigation development was ‘pure coincidence.'”

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DoubleTree, Double Standard

Yesterday, we joined Harvard Student Labor Action Movement and UNITE HERE Local 26 to demand justice for Harvard’s fully-owned DoubleTree Hotel. You can read the press release here:

Hundreds of Harvard Students and Allies Rally for Fair Treatment of Harvard’s Hotel Workers

Students highlight findings of new report “DoubleTree Double Standard”

CAMBRIDGE – On March 12th, 2013, a supermajority of workers at the Harvard-owned DoubleTree Hotel in Allston came together to ask their employer for a fair process to decide upon unionization. Since then, workers at Harvard’s DoubleTree have not received a fair process. Today at 5 PM at the Holyoke Center hundreds of students and allies will rally to shed light on the findings of a new report about the workers at the Harvard-owned DoubleTree titled “DoubleTree Double Standard.”

The report is a result of dozens of worker surveys conducted by Harvard student Gabriel Bayard over the summer of 2013. “I was dismayed to hear stories of chronic pain, debilitating injuries, poverty and loved ones without health insurance. Ninety-six percent of surveyed workers said that their jobs had gotten worse in the past six years; 84% said they could not imagine working there for the next ten years. I was shocked. This was not the Harvard that I knew” Bayard said.

“When it came time for me to go on my maternity leave, my supervisors pushed me to keep working,” Delmy Lemus, a room Attendant at Harvard’s DoubleTree for 5 years said. “I was nine months pregnant and still doing difficult heavy labor. I worked until 3 days before my daughter was born. This injured my spine, and I still have back pain two years later.” As a result of her injury, Delmy says: “I could not even pick up my daughter.”

“As a Harvard student, I see the DoubleTree workers playing a crucial role in creating a ‘home away from home’ for my family, for travelling faculty and other guests when they come to our campus,” said Gabriel Bayard, a junior at Harvard University studying Social Studies. “The worker’s stories in this report are Harvard’s stories, it is our responsibility to listen and act.”

WHAT: Rally to Highlight findings of “DoubleTree Double Standard” Report

WHEN: November 21, 5 p.m.

WHO: Harvard Students, Allies, Harvard’s DoubleTree Workers, Hotel and Foodservice Workers

WHERE: Outside Holyoke Center, 1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge

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Resources on HEI Hotels and Harvard investments

See below for resources on Harvard’s investments in HEI Hotels and Resorts, Emergent Asset Management, and other corporations.

Investment in HEI Hotels and Resorts

  • USAS report on university investment in HEI: Report prepared by United Students against Sweatshops (USAS) about HEI Hotels and Resorts as an unethical investment for university endowments. Has Information about Harvard’s investment in HEI Funds
  • The Harvard Crimson’s editorials decrying Harvard’s investment in HEI: Rethinking Reinvestment and HEI: A First Step.
  • HEI Workers Rising:  Website with information about the national campaign to get universities to stop investing in HEI and information about HEI workers’ fight for fair labor conditions.
 Other investments
  • Oakland Institute Report: Deciphering Emergent’s Investments in Africa: Report by the Oakland institute detailing Emergent Asset Management’s speculative investments in Africa and Harvard’s connection with the company
  • VandyWiki: A wiki page from Vanderbilt University, which has also invested substantially with Emergent, which describes in detail Emergent Asset Management’s activities in Africa and chronicles the ongoing divestment campaign on that campus.
  • Alpha Natural Resources, the company that now owns Massey Energy, operated the West Virginia coal mine whose safety violations caused the deaths of 29 miners last year. Here is a NY Times op-ed about the company not being cited for those safety violations, and an Amy Goodman article on the environmental hazards and public health risks of mountaintop removal mining.

Press Release: Public Filings Reveal Harvard’s Endowment Invested in Gun Manufacturers

PUBLIC FILINGS REVEAL HARVARD’S ENDOWMENT INVESTED IN GUN MANUFACTURERS

Students expect new Vice President for Sustainable Investment to further investigate and recommend divestment decisions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Contact: Nicole Granath, ngranath@college.harvard.edu

The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition, a student and alumni advocacy organization, released US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings this morning showing that Harvard University’s endowment is invested in gun manufacturers.

“Given the tragedy in Newtown and the fatal shooting on campus four years ago, Harvard’s failure to address these holdings is shocking. Stopping gun violence should be a critical concern for the university, and severing financial ties with these companies is a good first step,” Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition Investments Coordinator and Harvard College freshman Kevin Wang said.

The announcement follows a recent decision by the Harvard Management Company, which manages the university’s $30.7 endowment, to hire a Vice President for Sustainable Investment, who will be charged with analyzing the environmental, social, and governance impacts of the university’s investments.

“We expect the Vice President for Sustainable Investment to further investigate Harvard’s holdings and recommend appropriate divestment decisions,” Harvard security guard and Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition member Aryt Alasti said. “There should be attention to this matter from the first day on the job.”

The student-led investigation of public SEC filings found that the endowment is invested in the firearms company Smith & Wesson through the exchange-traded iShares Russell 2000 Index Fund. (1) (2) Harvard also invests in several funds managed by The Vanguard Group, which is Smith & Wesson’s largest shareholder. (1)

The $244 billion California Public Employees Retirement System (CALPERS) recently divested from index funds containing Smith & Wesson and other firearms manufacturers. The CALPERS decision was preceded one month earlier by similar action by the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. (4)

“Teacher unions and state pension funds divested because they recognize that firearms manufacturers threaten our schools and communities,” Harvard College sophomore Camilla Gibson said. “Harvard should follow their lead and cut their ties to Smith & Wesson and all other firearms manufacturers.”

Sources:

(1) Harvard SEC Filings: http://www.secinfo.com/d14D5a.x1D1b.htm
(2) IShares Russell 2000 Index Fund: http://us.ishares.com/product_info/fund/holdings/IWM.htm
(3) “Vanguard says social concerns will not affect gunmaker holdings.” http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/18/usa-shooting-connecticut-vanguard-idUSL1E8NIBWF20121218
(4) CALSTRS Announcement: http://www.calstrs.com/statement/calstrs-statement-its-decision-divest-certain-firearms-holdings

Harvard declares non-reinvestment in HEI Hotels

After years of student investment activism, Harvard has finally decided not to reinvest in HEI Hotels and Resorts, which has come under national fire for labor rights abuses. Read the Crimson story here:

Harvard Management Company, which oversees the University’s endowment, has chosen not to reinvest in funds managed by HEI Hotels & Resorts, according to an email sent by HMC President and CEO Jane L. Mendillo.

Harvard announced last December that it would would review HEI’s practicing after drawing criticism from labor activists for investing in the company, a hotel chain which has come under fire for repeated allegations of failure to comply with labor regulations.

Medillo’s email stated that decision not to reinvest was rooted in “factors related to the HMC portfolio and its strategy and needs” rather than issues related to HEI’s labor practices.

Princeton, Yale, Brown, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Vanderbilt, and Swarthmore have all said within the last year that they will not reinvest in the company.

—Check thecrimson.com for updates.

And the email from HMC CEO Jane Mendillo to Harvard President Drew Faust:

Dear Drew:

Thank you for your inquiry about HMC’s future plans with regard to HEI.  Harvard Management Company has decided not to reinvest in funds managed by HEI.  Importantly, this decision was based on factors related to the HMC portfolio and its strategy and needs; not on concerns about HEI’s practices. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Thanks,

Jane