Harvard To Divest From PetroChina

Decisions comes after months of pressure due to company’s links to Sudan

Harvard will sell its shares of PetroChina after months of pressure regarding PetroChina’s alleged ties to ongoing genocide in the Darfur region in Sudan, the University announced today.

The Harvard Corporation—the University’s top governing body—decided to sell shares of PetroChina because the company is too closely tied to the genocide, they said. PetroChina, a Beijing-based oil company, is owned by China National Petroleum Company, which has invested over $1 billion in a joint venture with Sudan to increase that country’s oil revenues, which are helping fund the genocide.

The University—which must report its publicly-traded holdings quarterly in a 13-F filing to the Securities and Exchange commission—held 67,200 shares on the New York Stock Exchange as of Dec. 31, 2004, according to its most recent filing in February. That holding would be worth $4.4 million today.

Harvard may also own shares of PetroChina on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, University President Lawrence H. Summers said at a Mather House study break last month. But the University is not required to disclose its Hong Kong holdings publicly.

The announcement coincided with a student demonstration this morning, where students—wearing black and carrying signs—rallied for Harvard to divest its holdings in PetroChina.

The Corporation’s decision to divest was made by the three-member Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (CCSR), which considers investment issues of this nature. The twelve-member Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR), students, faculty, and alumni, had advised the CCSR to divest.

University President Lawrence H. Summers, who asked for the ACSR for a recommendation on the issue, said in a press release that while Harvard does not usually divest, the circumstances surrounding PetroChina merit an exception.

“Divestment is not a step that Harvard takes lightly, but I believe there is a compelling case for action in these special circumstances, in light of the terrible situation unfolding in Darfur and the leading role played by PetroChina's parent company in the Sudanese oil industry, which is so important to the Sudanese regime,” Summers aid.

But students are still not completely satisfied.

“We applaud Harvard living up to its responsibility to divest in this case, but we are still calling on the Corporation to disclose and divest from all companies doing business with the Sudanese government,” said former Undergraduate Council President Matthew W. Mahan ’05, who had helped organize a campaign encouraging seniors to withhold donations to the senior gift until Harvard divested.

Manav K. Bhatnagar ’06, who helped launch a campus divestment petition, said he received a phone call this morning telling him Harvard would divest.

“Our second demand is that they divest from all other companies in Sudan, and we know of at least five that do business in Sudan,” he said.

Lawrence E. Adjah ’06, who helped organized today’s protest and is president of the Black Students Association, said he hopes this is only the beginning of Harvard’s attention to the issue.

“This is still only one component of what we’re trying to achieve,” Adjah said. “We understand that this is a big step.”

—Check thecrimson.com throughout the afternoon for updates.

—Matthew S. Meisel contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Stephen M. Marks can be reached at marks@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Lauren A. E. Schuker can be reached at schuker@fas.harvard.edu.