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The College and the Paradise Papers

Dartmouth Paradise Papers Comp.jpgThe trove of internal documents spirited out of the Appleby law firm — let’s hear it for thumb drives — has cast an unaccustomed light on how the rich secrete their wealth abroad, and how certain colleges and universities do the same to avoid taxes and accountability.

The article is headlined: Endowments Boom as Colleges Bury Earnings Overseas. American universities are using offshore strategies to swell their coffers, skirt taxes and obscure investments that could spark campus protests.

One of those certain colleges, you guessed it, is Dartmouth, as the New York Times’ photograph on its smartphone app makes clear:

The use of blocker corporations has raised concerns among policymakers in recent years. That’s partly because they cost the United States Treasury millions of dollars, but also because they legitimize an opaque offshore network sometimes used for nefarious purposes.

“They’re not cheating. They’re not hiding money or disguising money,” said Samuel Brunson, a law professor at Loyola University Chicago who has studied endowment taxation. “But they’re adding money to a system that allows people, if they want to hide their money, to do it.” Not only do the universities benefit — so does the wealthy and influential private equity industry.

Perhaps illustrating the sensitivity of the topic, officials at most of the college and university endowments that use blocker corporations, including Colgate, Dartmouth, Duke and Stanford, declined to comment specifically, citing longstanding policies against discussing their investments. Among them was Matt Kavgian, the director of strategic communications for Indiana University’s $2 billion endowment, which had invested $10 million with Quintana…

References to such corporations in the Appleby files, shared with The New York Times by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which obtained them from the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, date back at least to 2003. At that time, five elite schools — Columbia University, Dartmouth College, the University of Southern California, Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University — became partners in a Bermuda-based group called H&F Investors Blocker…

Colgate University, with an endowment worth $822 million last year, stood to benefit from blocker corporations in 2008 when it invested in Genstar Capital, a private equity fund specializing in leveraged buyouts, according to the records. One investor in that Cayman Islands partnership, called Genstar Capital Partners V HV, took pains to include a handwritten a note near his signature: “elect to invest through the blocker.” Other investors were Dartmouth, Stanford and a Duke fund called Gothic Corporation…

It sure is tough to keep up with all of the Hanlon administration’s scandals.

Addendum: In an article from May 17, 2016 entitled Dartmouth Releases Tax Return, the Valley News notes the extent of the College’s investment activities in entities located in tax-haven-rich locales:

The college had two dozen employees or agents overseas, including 19 in Europe, two in east Asia and one each in the Middle East, South America and Sub-Saharan Africa, but most of its overseas spending — $1.2 billion out of $1.26 billion — were in Central America and the Caribbean. Many alternative investment limited partnerships incorporate in that region for tax and legal reasons.

We’re not talking small change here.

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