A subsidiary of Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd., a Chinese solar power company that trades on the New York Stock Exhange (STP), announced today that it is filing for bankruptcy.
Suntech is one of four alternative energy investments highlighted in the Yale University endowment's 2009 annual report. The Suntech spread in the annual report featured nearly two pages, with four color photographs of Suntech's manufacturing facilities, headquarters in China, and founder, Shi Zhengron, who was described as "the 'Solar King'...the richest man in China."
"Endowment Report Touts Sustainability," was the way the Yale Daily News headlined it at the time. The Daily News went so far as to quote a professor of sustainable investing at Columbia University, Cary Krosinsky, who focused on Suntech in his sustainable investing class at Columbia. Professor Krosinsky described the company, as paraphrased by the Yale Daily News, as "very transparent and well-run."
Yale's chief investment officer, David Swensen, has a reputation and record as a shrewd investor, and the endowment's investment committee included such eminences as Fareed Zakaria.
But given the performance of Suntech, at least so far, maybe some of those students and climate-change activists urging college and university endowments to divest from the fossil fuel sector should instead be protesting the decision by the custodians of these funds to pour money into money-losing investments in alternative energy companies, undermining the university's ability to pay for financial aid and for important faculty research into multiculturalism.