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Statement on Gates Sale of G4S Shares

Stanford Students Applaud Gates G4S Share Sell, Maintain Call For Full Divestment

The Stanford student Gates Foundation, Divest G4S campaign applauds Bill Gates’ recent decision to sell down his shares in private security company G4S. As of May 28, the Stanford petition for the Gates Foundation to divest G4S held over 1100 student signatures. We focused on the Gates Foundation and G4S because Bill and Melinda Gates are our 2014 Commencement, granting us a more personal and immediate connection to them and the issue.

We have been in direct communication with representatives of the Foundation and indirect contact with representatives of the Asset Trust that runs the foundation’s endowment since May 13 and as recently as May 28. We view Gates’ decision as a victory for our campaign and the many others around the globe that have been working tirelessly against G4S’ human rights abuses and the Gates Foundation’s investments in them. Today is a small, but important victory for human rights. There is still more to do, however.

Our Stanford campaign highlighted G4S as one particularly crystallized example of an unethical investment. Yet we call – and continue to call – for broader action than selling shares from G4S. Our petition asks the Gates Foundation and its Asset Trust to:
  • completely divest from G4S, not simply below the threshold required to publicly report the stake;
  • reevaluate its investments in companies under investigation for human rights abuses, as well as companies that maintain ​compromising practices such as privatized prisons, military contracting, exploitation of workers;
  • and to publicize its policy of socially responsible investment for the BMGF Asset Trust detailing: 1) what the foundation considers ethical investments; 2) how it will guard against supporting unethical practices; and 3) how it will respond to unethical companies already within its endowment.

The Asset Trust maintains investments in companies comparable to G4S in perpetrating destructive practices and human rights abuses. Global private prison corporation The GEO Group and military contractor DynCorp are just two examples. Our most recent interaction with the Gates Foundation informed us that the only explanation of the Asset Trust’s investment policy they can provide is already online. According to the website, “[Bill and Melinda] have defined areas in which the endowment will not invest, such as companies whose profit model is centrally tied to corporate activity that they find egregious.” We appreciate Mr. Gates’ decision on behalf of his foundation but we insist that an entity that holds so much power and affects communities around the globe should be more publicly accountable to those constituencies.

We will continue to circulate our petition for the Stanford community, to engage with the Gates Foundation and to create dialogue around these crucial issues at Stanford in advance of Bill and Melinda’s June 15 Commencement address. To that end, we have invited the Gates to participate in a pre-commencement seminar with the Class of 2014 on these topics and more during graduation weekend. We hope the Gates’, their foundation and its Asset Trust will work to set a global gold standard for socially responsible investment.