Students Protest UBS Event

Miguel Jimenez

Advocacy group member Jihae Lee ’11 hands out flyers about UBS’ connection to Darfur outside the Faculty Club last night.

Representatives from UBS arrived to mingle with students on campus yesterday in an elegant, chandelier-lit room in the lower level of the Faculty Club. The two groups talked about career prospects at the prominent Swiss bank over refreshments. A screen at the front of the room read, “Global success begins with individual contribution. It starts with you.”

Outside the building, Harvard Darfur Action Group (HDAG) members handed out small yellow flyers posing the question: “Do YOU want to work for a company that underwrites GENOCIDE?”

The group’s efforts are directed at helping people understand the role UBS plays in genocide in Sudan, said Political Advocacy Chair Trevor J. Bakker ’10.

UBS underwrote the initial public offering for PetroChina, a Chinese oil company. PetroChina’s parent company, China National Petroleum Corporation, develops projects that generate funds for the government of Sudan, which is accused of genocide in Darfur.

While PetroChina and CNPC are technically separate entities, Bakker argues that there is enough evidence of asset flow and overlap in management to suggest that they are not independent.

“PetroChina was created to be seen as a safe investment separate from CNPC, when in actuality the two are not completely independent, a fact that Harvard recognized in its divestiture,” Bakker said.

Harvard divested from PetroChina in April 2005.

CNPC owns 88 percent of PetroChina. Seventy percent of Sudan’s oil revenues, for which CNPC is largely responsible, directly fund its military expenditures. CNPC chooses PetroChina’s executive board.

As one of only two reputable Western banks allowed to operate in China, UBS wields considerable influence over PetroChina’s activities, said Julie T. Shapiro ’10. The group’s flyers accuse UBS of not using its power to sway PetroChina to change its business practices.

Shapiro said the campaign aims to raise awareness of corporate practices. As an extension of an online petition for UBS to cut its ties to PetroChina, HDAG decided to reach people who may not be aware of UBS’s link to PetroChina by passing out flyers right outside the UBS recruiting event.

Though the group had tossed around ideas that included stunts and more colorful protests, the group decided that simply passing out flyers would be the best way to be taken seriously, Bakker said.

“To reach the sort of people who would apply to a job with UBS, it takes the dissemination of facts, not just protests and chants. Our purpose was not to protest for the sake of protesting, but to change attitudes,” Bakker added. “We hope we can get people to think about genocide, but more importantly we want them to think about ethics, and holding companies like UBS accountable for their activities.”

UBS’s main office did not respond to a call for comment.