Tue 18 Apr 2017
Two points about the ongoing debate over whether Williams should sell the oil and gas assets in its endowment.
First, oil and gas assets do not necessarily help boost the performance of the Williams endowment.
Williams endowment earned -1.5 percent for the year ended June 30, 2016, even though its managers held oil and gas assets. Yale’s endowment, by contrast, where managers are selling out of the oil and gas sector, earned +3.4 percent over the same period.
Second, there seems to be some confusion what it means when critics say Williams’ trustees have financial interests in oil and gas assets.
Critics pressing Williams to sell oil and gas assets do not make a priority of trustees holding oil and gas stocks through retirement or personal mutual funds.
They are more concerned about trustees who, through their jobs, profit from dealing in oil and gas.
A trustee who works in an academic institution whose retirement fund owns Exxon stock is one thing.
A trustee who works for a private equity fund restructuring an oil and gas company to maximize the return upon its sale to a third party is another thing.
A hedge fund trading in and out oil and gas assets to boost quarterly earnings is a third thing.
A review of the current roster of 21 trustees suggests that, through their jobs, as many as 10 have active financial interests in the oil and gas sector.
Thus, any vote by the trustees on whether or not the Williams endowment should sell out of the oil and gas sector begins with a financially interested bias on the part of up to half of them.
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