Media Advisory: SHAME Tour of Harvard Next Week

MEDIA ADVISORY: SHAME TOUR OF HARVARD

Two organizers from Corrientes, Argentina will visit Cambridge, Mass.

Cambridge, MA—On Saturday, April 5, two organizers from the communities most affected by Harvard’s timber plantations will arrive in Cambridge, Massachusetts for an 11-day tour and week of action sponsored by the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition.

In spring 2013, RI@H launched its responsible ownership campaign, demanding that Harvard take responsibility for the ethical practices of the companies it owns fully as part of its endowment.

After learning of ecological, land rights, and labor rights violations in Corrientes, Argentina near the plantations of Harvard-owned companies EVASA and Las Misiones, RI@H published an investigative report and mini-documentary, delivered letters to Harvard administrators, and held demonstrations on campus.

Community organizations in Argentina want Harvard to
1) stop expanding plantations within their communities,
2) remove plantations within 2,000 meters of their homes, and
3) comply with all legally required employment standards.
Although Harvard has responded to both students and Argentinian organizers, Harvard’s timber plantations have not yet complied with these demands.

With the support of Food and Water Watch, the Responsible Endowments Coalition, XminusY, and the Oakland Institute, as well as over 70 individual donors, RI@H has invited Emilio Spataro, an organizer working with local farmers in Corrientes, and Adrian Obregon, a leader in the local small producers association and a liaison to the larger Argentine campesino movement, to come to Harvard’s campus from April 5 – 16 for the SHAME tour (Stop Harvard’s Argentine Mismanagement and Exploitation).

Over the course of the week, the two delegates from Corrientes will speak to student groups, Harvard administrators, and student leaders about their experiences living under the shadow of Harvard’s plantations.

Spataro and Obregon have a scheduled meeting with Harvard administrators including Jameela Pedicini, Vice-President for Sustainability for Harvard Management Company; Lars Madsen, Office of the President of Harvard University; and Katherine Murtagh, Director of Compliance for Harvard Management Company.

The week of action will also include the following public events:

Wednesday April 9, 7–9PM:  “From Harvard Yard to the Ibera Wetlands” (CUNY Graduate Center 365 Fifth Avenue Room C-203).

Thursday April 10, 8:30–11:00 AM: “A Conversation about Transnational Movement Building with Organizers from the Campaign to Save the Ibera Wetland’s in Corrientes Argentina” (New York City, location TBA)

Friday April 11, 2–3PM: “Rally for Justice in Iberá” (Convening on the steps of Widener Library, Harvard Yard)

Tuesday April 15, 4–5PM: Harvard College Undergraduate Council “Forum for Responsible Investment” (Harvard Yard, Room TBA)

 

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Save the date: Rally at 2PM on April 11th

*Save the date* 
For seven years, Harvard-owned plantations in Corrientes, Argentina have been
 increasingly jeopardizing Emilio and Adrian’s communities and way of life
squeezing out profits in the name of Harvard students’ benefit – OUR benefit. 
 
Join Responsible Investment at Harvard
 for an epic RALLY on FRIDAY, APRIL 11th at 2PM
 to honor Emilio and Adrian’s visit to Cambridge and hear their account firsthand. 
 
Harvard needs to hear the message from us LOUD AND CLEAR: 
end the abuses. 
ONE Harvard brand, ONE Harvard community, 
ONE set of standards. 
 
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Will you join us to on April 11th as we unite across the 4000 miles between Corrientes and Harvard Yard to demand an end to the injustice? 
 

The UC Endorses the Responsible Ownership Policy Endorsement Act!

The Harvard Undergraduate Council unanimously approved the Responsible Ownership Policy Endorsement Act, which furthers the Council’s official support of encouraging Harvard to adopt responsible investment practices.

As a part of the legislation, UC leaders will engage with administrators to urge them to ensure that university’s investments uphold Harvard’s values. Furthermore, the Undergraduate Council will work with RI@H to send a “mail merge” to all undergraduate e-mail addresses to publicize the campaign and to raise awareness among members of the student body.

The UC will also hold a campus-wide forum regarding responsible investment during the SHAME Tour and Week of Action in early April. The Council will invite administrators, faculty, members of the Harvard Management Corporation, and students to attend.

Sincerest thanks to the Undergraduate Council for their continued support of Responsible Investment!

 

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.

Trusting Harvard: The Cost of Unprincipled Investing

Our Board of Advisers member Bob Monks has coauthored a book with writer Marcy Murninghan entitled Trusting Harvard: The Cost of Unprincipled Investing. The two Harvard alums share a great deal of knowledge about institutional investment strategies and Harvard’s role in socially responsible investment. The book is available from Amazon.com!

The blurb reads as follows: 

For decades, Robert Monks has promoted a simple idea: that property owners—even if the property is a share of corporate equity, or pile of funds to invest—have a civic moral responsibility for their holdings. At minimum, their obligation is to assure that no laws have been broken, no damage to others inflicted. More broadly, property owners have an obligation for active engagement, to assure positive performance and ethical integrity. That’s a form of citizenship that’s good for democracy, as well as capital markets. And it views “capital” holistically, connecting the stock and flow of financial, environmental, social, human, and other forms of capital because that’s how the real economy works. 

These concepts of “stewardship”, “ethics”, “capital”, and “citizenship” are the pillars undergirding Trusting Harvard. In it, on the occasion of his 80th birthday and upcoming 60th Harvard reunion, Monks once again makes his argument to a Harvard President. Along with co-author Marcy Murninghan, he provides a framework for answering two questions: How can Harvard fulfill its fiduciary obligation as an investor in ways that advance its beliefs, values and commitments? How can Harvard take the lead in creating a curriculum for students, professionals, and the general public about the civic moral obligations of wealth? While aimed at Harvard, the issues covered are relevant to other universities and tax-exempt institutional investors, because they have a special duty to advance the public interest. In addition to fiduciary and curricular frameworks—the “myopic”, “ethical”, and “integrated” fiduciary; a tiered approach to gaining fiduciary knowledge and competence—a series of questions for trustees to ask are included. The result is a call to action to restore the social compact affecting universities and other public fiduciaries. That means moving away from a “house divided”, wherein fiduciary and program responsibilities reside in separate wings, to one wherein they are inextricably linked. And that’s good for everybody. 

Announcing the SHAME tour of Harvard

SHAME stands for Stop Harvard’s Argentine Mismanagement & Exploitation (clever, right?) but it’s also how Harvard administrators are going to feel when confronted by the stories of those who are most affected by their irresponsible investments.

Last semester, we sent letters, signed petitions, and demonstrated outside in the rain and cold. We even published an investigative report and produced a mini-documentary. But Harvard President Drew Faust has refused to enact responsible ownership policies, ignoring the requests of people who suffer every day from Harvard-owned plantations.

We don’t think she can ignore community leaders who travel 4,884 miles to defend their way of life. It’s one thing to read about Harvard’s out-of-control companies halfway around the world, but it’s another thing to hear about them from the people who suffer the consequences.

We’ve estimated that it will cost $4,000 for visa fees and international airfare, and we want to buy tickets by February 19th. Please help donate now so we can bring Harvard’s neighbors in Argentina to Harvard Yard this spring!

Undergraduate Council endorses Responsible Ownership Policy

At last night’s Undergraduate Council meeting, undergraduate representatives passed legislation entitled “The Responsible Ownership Policy Endorsement Act.” Put forward by freshman reps  Riya Patel and Giora Ashkenazi, the legislation was co-sponsored by 17 other representatives, including UC Vice-President Sietse Goffard. An excerpt of the legislation reads: 

… Whereas in Argentina, Harvard-owned timber plantations are degrading the Iberá Wetlands ecosystem, expanding into protected wetland areas and surrounding communities, creating public health problems, damaging public roads, ignoring legally required employment practices and endangering thousands of farmers in the region;

 

Whereas residents of the communities affected by Harvard’s plantations in Argentina sent a letter to President Faust on December 5th, 2013 expressing their concern that even after two months, the administration still hasn’t responded to the RI@H Coalition’s report documenting the impacts that Harvard’s companies have in their communities nor to the community’s request to halt the environmental and human rights abuses and comply with legal employment practices, and expressing their desire to work with Harvard to satisfy both party’s needs rather than face intimidation and scare tactics aimed at quieting the protests;

 

Whereas President Faust has so far only responded by proxy and inadequately to this letter from the communities in Argentina;

 

Whereas President Faust has articulated a clear case for responsible investment, yet offers no evidence that Harvard actually engages its investments in this way, and instead the administration has demonstrated a lack of awareness and knowledge about its investments;

 

Be it therefore resolved that the Harvard Undergraduate Council officially endorse RI@H’s efforts to encourage Harvard University and Harvard Management Company’s adoption and application of the proposed policy to guide Harvard’s investment practices by February 12, 2014…

Press Release: Harvard Manager Detained in Romania

CONTACT: Sandra Korn, sandrakorn@college.harvard.edu(732) 796-8052

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 24, 2013

HARVARD MANAGER DETAINED IN ROMANIA FOR CORRUPTION

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 http://www.voceatransilvaniei.ro/
Dragoș Lipan-Secu, former managing director of Scolopax, with his wife Mariana . Image via http://www.voceatransilvaniei.ro/

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.