Did Harvard divest itself of Israel stocks? (updated)

Harvard University has reported that it sold all of its shares in Israeli companies between the first and second reporting period.

As Professor Bainbridge points out, there may be technical reasons for the selling:

In one sense, Harvard did divest--they dumped all their Israeli stocks. But most people use divest in a more nuanced way; i.e., to intentionally sell and thereafter refrain from investing in stocks of a particular country for political reasons. So the interesting question is why Harvard sold the stocks at issue. Was it coincidence, a purely investment-driven decision, or a surrender to political activists opposed to Israel? Only the latter would count as divestment in my book.

But the Israeli business publication Globes Online seems more certain:

In another blow to Israeli shares, the Harvard Management Company notified the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday that it had sold all its holdings in Israeli companies during the second quarter of 2010. No reason for the sale was mentioned. The Harvard Management Company manages Harvard University's endowment.
Harvard Management Company stated in its 13-F Form that it sold 483,590 shares in Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Nasdaq: TEVA; TASE: TEVA) for $30.5 million; 52,360 shares in NICE Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: NICE; TASE: NICE) for $1.67 million; 102,940 shares in Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP) for $3.6 million; 32,400 shares in Cellcom Israel Ltd. (NYSE:CEL; TASE:CEL) for $1.1 million, and 80,000 Partner Communications Ltd. (Nasdaq: PTNR; TASE: PTNR) shares for $1.8 million.

You would think if it was some kind of divestment for political reasons, Harvard would trumpet it to the skies. And now that the news is out, they may very well do that.

But why not make a big deal about it before going ahead? If it was to head off opposition, that would be understandable. But I can't imagine Harvard passing up the opportunity to bask in the glow of praise from anti-Israeli activists who have been pestering universities to divest themselves of all shares from Israeli companies.

H/T: Clarice Feldman


The Management Company's most recent SEC filing details changes in holdings, as is routine, but no change in policy. The University has not divested from Israel . Israel was moved from the MSCI, our benchmark in emerging markets, to the EAFE index in May due to its successful growth. Our emerging markets holdings were rebalanced accordingly. We have holdings in developed markets, including Israel , through outside managers in commingled accounts and indexes, which are not reported in the filing in question.