Donors to Harvard might read this one with some intrigue. There was a riveting piece in “The New York Times” by Stephanie Saul earlier this week about the unenviable position Harvard finds itself in as a court attempts to discern the assets of an influential donor to the university. Harvard University, the school that boasts the largest endowment of any school in the world, obviously highly values its relationship with major donors to the university. And while this particular court is trying to ascertain the accounts through which an alumnus is donating money to the university and revealing such could certainly jeopardize the school’s relationship with the alumnus, the bigger risk for Harvard is the precedent it’s setting by not maintaining the confidentiality of a donor’s private information. But of course Harvard, it seems, has no choice being as this is by order of a federal court in Boston.
You can bet that Harvard doesn’t wish to be in the news for being forced, by order of a court, to reveal the bank account information of an influential donor.
As Saul writes in her piece entitled “Harvard Ordered to Reveal Financial Records of Influential Donor,” “He is a wealthy international entrepreneur known for generous donations to his alma mater, Harvard. Now a court says the university must cooperate in a hunt for his assets. A federal judge in Boston has ruled that Harvard must provide testimony and produce documents disclosing the bank accounts, routing numbers, wire transfers and other interbank messages used by an alumnus, Charles C. Spackman, to send the university money. Mr. Spackman, a Hong Kong-based businessman, leads the Spackman Group, a global investment holding company with $1.5 billion under management. The ruling places the Ivy League college in the uncomfortable predicament of revealing confidential financial information gleaned from the donations of an influential benefactor. No small donor, according to his company website, Mr. Spackman sponsors a scholarship fund for Asian students at Harvard, leads the Harvard-Asia Scholarship Council and has served as a co-chairman of reunion gifts for the class of 1994. That is the year Mr. Spackman, also known by his Korean name of Yoo Shin Choi, obtained an undergraduate degree in economics.”
Harvard, and its development office, is likely worried that other influential donors to the university might be scared off from donating to the university if they know the school will reveal their bank account information and such. But it seems that this particular alumnus had a judgement against him and was syphoning off assets to the university — which means that Harvard may have to return the assets. So any donor really should know that this can happen if they happen to have a judgement against them. It just doesn’t help Harvard’s cause of securing major donations to get press for being ordered by a federal court to reveal an alumnus’ financial information. But while the case is interesting, we don’t think it’ll impact Harvard’s bottom line too much. Don’t worry, Harvard. You’ll be just fine.
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