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VN Criticizes Tight-lipped Trustees

In an on-line editorial today, the Valley News criticized the College’s refusal to disclose the fees paid to Trustees who manage part of the endowment. The Editorial Board’s conclusion:

Let’s not forget that the Dartmouth endowment enjoys the considerable benefit of a tax exemption. The government, on behalf of taxpayers, has agreed to forgo revenue it would otherwise earn by taxing endowment income because the endowment supports an enterprise deemed to serve the public good — in this case, education. Under those circumstances, taxpayers have a right to insist that endowment activity isn’t serving other, nonpublic purposes, such as the undue enrichment of connected parties.

It’s certainly easy to grasp why Dartmouth wishes to pursue these investments. The college happens to have on its board some of the nation’s most successful investors. Or perhaps it’s not happenstance. In any case, the aim of the committee that makes investment decisions is to maximize returns. Accordingly, the committee does not want to deprive itself of the opportunity to invest in promising funds simply because they are under the control of trustees. So the college has put in place several procedural safeguards — including the requirement that trustees recuse themselves from investment decisions involving their own funds — and has invested freely and, judging by recent results, wisely.

So, just to ensure the continuation of this favorable climate, wouldn’t it make sense for the college and regulators to go out of their way to provide the basic information needed to assure everyone that these transactions aren’t self-serving? Seems as though they’re doing the opposite.

The paper continues to do a good job shining a bright light on this issue.

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