The debate over disclosure of information relating to US public institutions investing in alternative assets looks set to escalate following US reports that the Yale University Endowment Fund is being pressured to disclose its investment performance data.
Yale has been accused by trade unions of having curtailed performance data disclosure at a time when other public funds, such as the University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO), have moved towards greater levels of disclosure.
The Deal reports that the controversy stems from Yale's decision earlier this year to stop disclosing the principal business address for each Yale subsidiary, including investments. Information had been available in the endowment's publicly available tax form, which showed business addresses. This year, the individual addresses were replaced with a generic Yale post-office box number. Unions, including the Federation of Hospital and University Employees have seen this as an attempt to move away from greater transparency, and have been supported in their campaign Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
The news comes at a time when returns on university endowments are falling. In the 1999-2000 fiscal year, Yale experienced a 41 per cent return on investments. In the 2001-02 fiscal year, Yale reported a 0.7 per cent investment return, following a 9.2 percent return in 2000-01. This autumn, the total value of Yale's endowment fell from $10.7bn to $10.5bn. Despite the reduction, the endowment, which targets a 20 per cent private equity allocation and is known for its commitment to alternative assets, has achieved superior returns to its university counterparts.
Calls for increased disclosure made in connection with US Freedom of Information Acts either on the federal or state level are being faced by a number of US public funds. The Californian Public Employees’ Retirement System is currently the subject of a lawsuit from the San Jose Mercury News which believes that California residents have the right to now details of the performance of the largest private equity investor in the United States. The Boston Globe has pursued a similar case against the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Trust.