Bloomberg News

Brown Considering Ban on Investing in 15 Coal-Related Companies

October 25, 2013

Brown University is considering a ban on investing in 15 companies that mine or burn coal, requiring the Ivy League school to sell some existing holdings.

The 54 members of Brown Corp., the university’s governing body, are meeting this weekend at the campus in Providence, Rhode Island, and plan to discuss a recommendation to divest, according to Marisa Quinn, a spokeswoman for the school. Any actions taken at the meeting, which could include a vote on the issue, would come tomorrow, she said, declining to elaborate.

Students at more than 300 schools in the U.S. have formed groups in the past year to pressure colleges to divest from oil, gas and coal companies, seen as the biggest contributors to climate change. While a handful of schools have agreed to sell all or some of their fossil-fuel holdings, most, including wealthier institutions such as Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, have declined.

“Brown really has a chance here to step up as a leader,” said Rachel Bishop, an alumnus who graduated this year and has helped organize the campaign. “It would really signal that Brown is not afraid to challenge the status quo.”

Brown students have been collecting signatures for a petition calling for a ban on investing in 10 coal-burning utilities in the U.S., including Duke Energy Corp. (DUK:US) in Charlotte, North Carolina, as well as five coal mining companies. Last week, the university’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies, which groups faculty, students, staff and alumni, repeated its recommendation for divestment in a letter to President Christina Paxson.

The university, which has an endowment of $2.86 billion, has stakes in some of the companies, the students said.

Brown Corp. members include Paxson and alumni such as Brian Moynihan, chief executive officer of Bank of America Corp. Students have asked that Moynihan, hedge fund manager Steven Cohen and three other members recuse themselves from the divestment vote because of their companies’ interests in the coal business.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael McDonald in Boston at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at

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