Harvard—which has by far the country’s biggest university endowment—apparently sold all its Israeli stocks, according to SEC filings. Rumor had it that the move was politically motivated; and even some who didn’t think it was politically motivated nonetheless think it bespeaks a larger point about … something.
Fact is, it just, kinda, doesn’t mean anything. Felix Salmon astutely noted, “The chances of this move being at all politically motivated are remote. I’m sure,” he added,
that if you looked at all endowment 13-Fs on a quarterly basis, you’d find that every quarter a pretty large number of endowments will turn out to have sold out of some small market or other. It’s just that by sheer coincidence, this time it’s the two big hot-button names, Harvard and Israel, and hence there’s lots of headlines.
Next quarter, or the one after that, a few Israeli holdings are bound to reappear in Harvard’s 13-F. I wonder whether anybody will notice that.
And actually the real explanation is even more mundane: Turns out that because of Israeli growth, Harvard no longer classifies Israel as an emerging market, but rather as a developed one, which necessitated moving the stocks out of that one part of its portfolio. “We have holdings in developed markets, including Israel, through outside managers in commingled accounts and indexes,” a Harvard Management Company spokesperson said.
There is probably a larger lesson in this, about the dangers of seizing on apparent news rapidly instead of doing your homework, but as a blog dedicated to being updated several times a day, we are going to choose to willfully ignore that.