Town and Gown unite to condemn Trinity Investments

At a meeting in Emmanuel Church, locals and students rallied against Trinity’s Investment policy.

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It’s not often you see students sitting alongside locals. But this week both groups gathered together to voice their concerns about investments strategies across the University, and at Trinity College in particular.

Trinity’s investments have long been a cause for concern. Their use of an ‘MSCI All Country’ tracker index means that they hold shares in some of the most unpalatable companies in the world.

One such company is Anglo-American, whose subsidy, AngloGold Ashanti operates in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). AngloGold are alleged to have bribed a local military group, whose leader General Katanga is under an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court since 2007, in order to facilitate its local mining operations.

Trinity College hold 10,000 shares in the mammoth mining company Anglo-American.

The role of mining companies in fuelling conflict in the DRC was discussed at the meeting. Dan Macmillen, from Positive Investment Cambridge, urged attendees to understand the role of international companies in conflicts across the world, and consider the implications of investments their colleges hold in such companies.

He said “It’s important to think about the ways in which companies around the world impact human rights, and accordingly, what our relationship to those companies through investments implies.”

Ironically, Trinity was also the name of a fictitious company in the DRC set up as a front for corruption.

Jeremy Corbyn MP was due to speak at the meeting, organised by Stop The War coalition, but was forced to withdraw to attend a vote in Parliament.

No drone on this one: United Reform Church held the investment discussion

No drone on this one: United Reform Church held the investment discussion

With an endowment worth over £800,000,000 Trinity’s use of a tracker-fund to decide upon its investments, for financial reasons, results in investments in some of the largest arms, private military and security, and mining companies across the globe.

According to their bursar, Rory Landman, their motivation is simple. The tracker is a “low cost way of tracking a global index of major companies. This is the College’s only motive in owning these shares.”

However, Jonna Womack, bursar of Clare Hall has said “Over five-year and ten-year periods there was virtually no difference in performance [between ethical and standard funds]”. This suggests that financial returns are not significantly diminished when colleges adhere to an ethical investment policy.

One local resident described the risk of considerable ‘damage to the reputations’ of colleges across Cambridge, including Trinity, by failing to offer any ethical policy that guides or supplements their investment strategy.

Dennis O’Malley, convenor of Cambridge’s branch of Stop the War coalition and formed student at Trinity College, said: “In a telling follow-up letter Mr Landman [Trinity’s bursar] states that ‘the College may well hold investments in the [arms] companies to which you allude.’ This confirms that he does not regard this as his concern.  As more and more universities adopt ethical investment policies, Cambridge is in danger of looking out of touch. Jeremy Corbyn is just one of many prominent public figure to recognise that change is overdue.”

Unlike Trinity, Cambridge University have failed to disclose details of their investments after Freedom of Information Requests (FOI) submitted by The Tab. This failure is currently under review.

Are you a student at Trinity and concerned about your college’s investments? Contact [email protected]