HANOVER — The Dartmouth College board of trustees and investment committee are being investigated by the Attorney General's Office after a complaint earlier this year alleged mismanagement of the college's $3.4 billion endowment as well as conflicts of interest in the investment of those funds.
College spokesman Justin Anderson said the accusations are false.
Anthony Blenkinsop, director of the Charitable Trusts Unit at the Attorney General's Office, said an anonymous letter was sent to Gov. John Lynch and Attorney General Michael Delaney in February.
“It raised issues about certain investments that I guess that the board has made into certain companies that are related to trustees,” Blenkinsop said. “We're in the process of reviewing it and making a determination of what additional information we'll need to make a determination ... on whether there were any wrongdoings.”
The allegations were made by a group referring to itself as The Friends of Eleazar Wheelock, the founder of Dartmouth College. The group says it is made up of alumni and former and current faculty members, and employees who fear for their jobs if they were to come forward publicly.
The complaint letter is posted on an unofficial university blog, www.dartblog.com.
“They have simultaneously directed the College's three billion dollar endowment to themselves, their firms, and their friends. They have furthered their own self-interest at the expense of the College and the Upper Valley. They have abused the nonprofit status of Dartmouth College. They have enriched themselves through managing and directing Dartmouth's three billion dollar endowment. In all cases they have taken gargantuan fund management fees through “Private Equity,” “Venture Capital,” and “Hedge Funds” investments which they themselves manage and are the owners of,” the letter said. We call on the governor and the attorney general to launch an investigation and to request that these trustees resign because of their mismanagement and conflicts of interests and that Dartmouth divest itself of its investments in trustee managed funds.”
Referring to the letter, Anderson said: “That is categorically false. All the investments are explicitly legal and entirely proper and Dartmouth meets or exceeds all provisions under the law governing these kinds of transactions.”
In instances in which Dartmouth endowment funds are invested in a firm related to a trustee, that investment relationship was established prior to the individual becoming a board member, Anderson said.
“The successful performance of these investments over the years has been key for supporting Dartmouth's mission,” Anderson said, noting without those investments “the returns would have been lower.”
According to Dartmouth College in September, the endowment earned an investment return of 18.4 percent for the 2011 fiscal year, boosting its value by $415 million to $3.413 billion as of June 2011.
Anderson said the letter's assertion that the investment committee lost about $300 million in six “interest rate swaps” with Lehman Brothers was incorrect. The losses were $89.4 million, and they were reported, he said.
He also said the letter's accusation that hedge fund losses affected grant money for research, advances to faculty, and other working capital is untrue. “Faculty and research resources did not suffer because of performance related to hedge funds,” Anderson said.