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Students respond to alleged human rights abuses of Gates Foundation company

Following the announcement of Bill and Melinda Gates as Commencement speakers for the upcoming Class of 2014 graduation this year, students began forming a movement requesting the Gates Foundation to divest from company G4S. As of yesterday, 1100 people had signed a petition calling for divestment due to a “litany of human rights abuse and concerns” that the statement claimed G4S was complicit in.

On Wednesday, a stock exchange filing showed that Gates had sold down his stake in G4S to below three percent. It is unclear exactly how much stock Gates still holds because three percent is the lowest threshold at which investors must declare.

“It’s not about being against the Gates, it’s about trying to make the Gates Foundation hold true to its principle because it does so much good and is an amazing entity,” said Clayton Evans, a student organizer. (CATHERINE ZAW/The Stanford Daily)

“It’s not about being against the Gates, it’s about trying to make the Gates Foundation hold true to its principle because it does so much good and is an amazing entity,” said Clayton Evans, a student organizer. (CATHERINE ZAW/The Stanford Daily)

The student group organizing the protest released a statement applauding Gates’ decision to sell down his shares.

“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,” the press release stated. “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.”

According to Clayton Evans ’15, another student organizer, there are about 40 active members in the coalition, which officially began its push for student mobilization of the campus about a month ago. The student coalition also includes representatives from a wide array of student groups including Fossil Free Stanford, the Student Labor Alliance, the Stanford Asian American Activism Committee, Stanford STAND and Students for Justice in Palestine.

“[G4S] is involved in a huge plethora and wide array of human rights abuses in almost every geopolitical and social context in Central America, the Middle East and South Africa,” said Joshua Schott ’14, student organizer. “In having the Gates Foundation invested in a corporation that does all these things that kills and marginalizes the communities that the Gates Foundation tries to help is somewhat hypocritical and contradictory to what they’re doing.”

“It’s not about being against the Gates, it’s about trying to make the Gates Foundation hold true to its principle because it does so much good and is an amazing entity,” Evans said.

In its press release following the divestment, the Stanford campaign said that it would continue to call for broader action than selling shares from G4S. The group said that it is still asking for the Gates Foundation and its Asset Trust to complete divest from G4S, reevaluate its investments in companies under investigation for human rights abuses and to publicize its policy of socially responsible investment.

“Having the Gates Foundation [completely] divest from [G4S] is the ultimate goal but we’re realistic and know that there’s a slim chance from doing that, but we want a public engagement around these issues,” Schott said. “And so this would be really crucial, and I think we’ve already succeeded a lot of ways in sparking discussion on campus.”


Contact Catherine Zaw at czaw13 ‘at’

About Catherine Zaw

Catherine Zaw is the Managing Editor of News at The Stanford Daily. She is a senior from Miami, Florida, double majoring in biology and linguistics. To contact her, please email
  • Michael Davison

    This article is worse than ridiculous, and explodes the myth that all Stanford students are intelligent.
    The Gates foundation sells less than one-fifth of its holdings in G4S, and some idiotic BDS supporter reads it as “divestment”. Even more delusional is the idea that the Gates Foundation actually took the Stanford students’ petition as the deciding factor to sell GBP 110 million shares– shares that were immediately bought up by someone else.
    Don’t they teach economics and how the stock market works at Stanford? I would assume so, but the author of this article must have missed it at registration…

  • cardcounter

    Bill Gates has no control over the investments of the Gates Foundation. It is intentionally set up that way. Since one of the main points of the article is the atrocities that G4S supposedly commits, it would have been helpful to give one or two concrete examples of these.

  • Gabe

    Mikey Daves,

    Your claim that the G4S shares being “immediately bought up by someone else” means the Gates Foundation’s divestment was ineffective reveals a lot about your own lack of understanding how stock markets work. When stockholders, especially big ones like the Gates foundation, decide to sell large amounts of shares, it drives the price down, as there are now more people looking to sell than to buy, and the sellers must lower their prices to compensate.

    Even though the same shares were bought by someone else, they will be worth slightly less, and hence G4S will be worth slightly less as well.

  • Michael Davison

    With a wife who spent 35 years working in an investment bank, I think I just might know how the stock market works. Are you sure you do?

    First, there is no proof at all that the Gates Foundation “divested” itself of anything. Foundations of that nature trade millions of dollars, pounds and euros daily, based on information that rarely, if ever, reaches the public. Since the “divestment” was less than 1% of the total of shares on the market (and less than a quarter of the foundation’s holding), such an effect is minimal. Also, anyone looking at the record of G4S’s management foul-ups in the past few years would have considered diversifying. At the moment, the Gates Foundation (not Bill Gates himself, as many articles imply– he is not involved in the day-to-day workings of the company) is retaining more than 3/4 of their original holding in G4S. If they were divesting, they would have dumped all of their shares and according to them, they don’t plan on selling any more at present.

    The shares “will be worth slightly less”? Do you think “slightly less” will worry the management of a company whose revenue (not share value) in 2013 was GBP 7.4 billion? Shares go up and down all the time– it’s the nature of the beast. G4S is more worried about the screw-ups they made in the security of the 2012 Olympics than they are about BDS, if it’s is even on their radar.

    All the articles written claim the “divestment” is either because of the G4S ties to the IDF and the “occupation” (there are none: G4S Israel provides security personnel to shopping malls, railway and bus stations and some government buildings) or because of the atrocities G4S has committed around the world. Since no one is forthcoming about just what those atrocities are, I have to ask if they exist at all.

    In addition, the aims of BDS are based on a fallacy. South Africa’s Apartheid regime did not fall because of any boycott. It was dissolved with the full knowledge of the white population that the system had to change, under any circumstances. As an Israeli representative in Johannesburg in 1979, I could see for myself the beginnings of its disintegration, and heard F.W. de Klerck’s speech declaring that the Apartheid system had to end. To the end of Apartheid, South Africa was an affluent country, with a standard of living far higher than anyone could expect, had the boycott been effective.

    Lastly, the BDS target is the wrong one. If anyone REALLY want an end to the so-called “Palestinian-Israeli conflict, tell the Palestinians to stop saying no and make a counter-offer. It would also help if Mahmoud Abbas would stop declaring that a peace agreement will not signify the end of the conflict– I bet you didn’t know that he says that, did you?

  • Gabe

    As my wife has spent 36 years working in an investment bank, I can say with absolute certainty that you’re wrong about the stock market. But I digress.

    I think it’s probably more important to talk about your views on the end of Apartheid, which baffle me. Next you’re probably going to say that activism had nothing to do with the end of segregation in the US. I know it did, because I was an Israeli representative in Little Rock in 1957.

  • Michael Davison

    “…your views on the end of Apartheid, which baffle me. Next you’re probably going to say that activism had nothing to do with the end of segregation in the US. I know it did, because I was an Israeli representative in Little Rock in 1957.”

    Don’t put words in my mouth. The plain fact of South Africa is that the boycott had nothing to do with the end of Apartheid, period. Look up the economic records for South Africa and see for yourself. It was the admission of the whites that Apartheid couldn’t last, especially with the drain of young whites to other countries in the West. Any other conclusion is just wishful thinking.

    Segregation in the US was different– for many reasons. First, the federal government never enacted segregation laws, only the several southern states. Therefore, once such laws are deemed unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court, they have to be repealed. One of the cornerstone cases was Loving v Virginia, which broke down the southern laws against what they called “misogyny”, or interracial marriages for all the southern states. The efforts of people like Rosa Parks, sit-down strikes and applications to formerly segregated colleges and universities, they all played their part, but a main difference was that much of the white majority (including my parents, who took my sister and me to MLK’s March on Washington), supported desegregation, whereas in South Africa the white minority would have been quite happy to continue with the status quo, even when it became impossible.

    I’m surprised that any reasonably educated and logical person can equate the two. It’s like comparing peaches to potatoes.

    BTW, have you ever sat in a gallery and watched the trading in a stock market? Have you spent time in a Money Market trading room? Your response makes me think that you either haven’t, or didn’t understand what was going on.

  • sasboy

    Companies profiting from Israel’s brutal occupation deserve to be full boycotted.