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Investigative report skewers Yeshiva U. for past investment practices

Yeshiva University President Richard Joel.

Yeshiva University President Richard Joel.

The Jewish Channel, together with TakePart, has published an investigative report on Yeshiva University.

Headlined “How to Lose $1 Billion: Yeshiva University Blows its Future on Loser Hedge Funds,” the article notes that contrary to conventional wisdom, the Madoff Ponzi scheme was a relatively minor factor in the school’s current financial woes. The piece, written by The Jewish Channel’s Steven I. Weiss, says that the major factor was the diversion of the bulk of the university’s endowment dollars to risky hedge fund investments and a governance culture with inadequate conflict-of-interest policies constraining the school’s Wall Street board members.

Weiss, a former Y.U. student, wrote that the article was based on a “review of more than 10,000 pages of legal and financial documents, dozens of interviews, and many New York State Freedom of Information Law requests.”

Yeshiva University has issued the following response:

It’s unfortunate that Yeshiva University wasn’t given sufficient opportunity to react to the TakePart article, which is full of half-truths and inaccuracies from as far back as a decade ago. The writer, who admits that he has an axe to grind with YU, claims to have worked on the article for two years, but contacted YU less than two days before publication, presented limited information that he planned to report and ignored most of what he was provided. Given the poor quality of this article apparently written for no purpose other than to damage YU, we will remain focused on the future and have no further comment on this matter, other than to share that YU has invested in its core, our students and faculty, with great results, and will continue to do so. Today, YU’s investment portfolio is strong and professionally managed by our investment office with careful board oversight and best-in-class conflict of interest policies in place.

Weiss’ response to the response (via an email to JTA):

This article has already garnered praise from Pulitzer Prize winning business columnist Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times, John Carney of the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg’s Barry Ritholtz, and many others. All key claims within it are based entirely on Yeshiva’s own financial documents, its internal communications, and the sworn testimony of board members and employees past and present, obtained by TakePart in association with The Jewish Channel as part of a two-year investigation.

JTA’s follow-up query to Y.U. about its response —  asking that officials identify the specific “half-truths and inaccuracies” and share details about its investment portfolio — has not yet been answered.

UPDATE: Y.U. has now issued this response.

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