Students at 5 Universities Push for Information About Hedge Fund's Investments

The Chronicle of Higher Education
Wednesday, March 3, 2004
By AUDREY WILLIAMS JUNE

Students from five major universities started a campaign on Tuesday to push one of the nation's largest hedge funds -- a major investor for academic institutions -- to disclose information about its investments.

The students attend Duke University, Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Texas, and Yale University, all of which invest endowment or retirement money with Farallon Capital Management LLC, which has about $8-billion under management.

"Universities are important customers of Farallon, and we are important shareholders in our university," Justin Ruben, a student in Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a spokesman for the campaign, said in an interview on Tuesday. "We want to talk to Farallon directly about how they are using university money."

The coalition wants information from the San Francisco-based company about its investments so that it can better evaluate whether some of them may be environmentally and ethically questionable.

The coalition requested a meeting in an open letter sent Tuesday to Farallon's senior managing member, Thomas F. Steyer, a Yale graduate who founded Farallon in 1986. Neither Mr. Steyer nor other officials at Farallon returned phone calls seeking comment.

Mr. Ruben said the impetus for the campaign stemmed from a controversy related to Yale's investments that came to light more than two years ago. Yale unions revealed that the university was a member of a partnership that owned a Colorado ranch, of which Farallon was managing partner. Farallon wanted to pump and sell water from an aquifer below the ranch that is adjacent to a national monument.

Yale, in response to the criticism from Colorado residents and politicians, agreed to sell the ranch to the Nature Conservancy and donate the profits to the conservancy. Students held a rally in mid-February outside of the Yale Investment Office, where they voiced their concern about the lack of disclosure on the university's investments, Mr. Ruben said. The students left a letter requesting a meeting with the chief investment offer. That letter and an earlier e-mail message making the same request received no reply, Mr. Ruben said.

A spokesman for the Yale Investment Office could not be reached for comment.

The coalition has taken its campaign to the Internet with a new Web site, unfarallon.info.