PHILADELPHIA -- The University of Pennsylvania will bar investments of its endowment assets in seven oil companies currently operating in Sudan as well as in obligations of the Sudanese government as a response to the genocide being committed in Darfur, Penn President Amy Gutmann announced today.
The decision to divest was made by the University Board of Trustees based on a recommendation by Penn University Council, a deliberative and broadly representative forum that exists to consider the activities of the University in all its phases. This recommendation follows a report developed and presented by members of the Social Responsibility Advisory Committee, a group comprised of faculty, students and staff that advises the president and trustees on proxy matters. The report of the SRAC members cites external sources that contend the oil sector is the primary source of revenue for the Sudanese government, allowing the government to support genocide. By providing significant funding to a genocidal government, certain oil companies may have become partners in causing grave social injury.
"Divestment is an extreme measure that should be made rarely and carefully and only under the most unusual circumstances," Gutmann said. "In this case, the genocide occurring in Darfur with the support of the Sudanese government represents a moral evil that we cannot ignore. Given the role of the oil sector in supporting the Sudan economy, it is important to convey the right message to these corporations about the impact of their actions. Further, we recognize that there is a broad consensus within the University community that this is the right approach to take."
Gutmann noted that Penn does not now have any direct holdings in these companies. The divestment policy will prohibit future investment in all such holdings.
As a result of the trustees' action, Penn's investment office will direct its investment managers to refrain from any acquisitions in the named companies or in Sudanese government obligations. Those companies are Bentini, Higleig, Hi-Tech Petroleum, Nam Fatt, Oil & Natural Gas Corporation, PetroChina and Sinopec.
The University will also talk to managers of commingled funds in which it invests that give it indirect exposure in these specified companies and will discuss with managers strategies for avoiding association with these companies in the future.
Gutmann praised the members of SRAC and its chair, Penn Professor Gerald Porter, as well as the members of Students Taking Action Now: Darfur, for their dedication and advocacy on this important issue.
"I want to thank Dr. Porter and the members of SRAC and our student advocates for their thoughtful consideration and well-researched recommendations on this issue," Gutmann said. "This is an example of university citizenship at its best."