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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 — Houston, TX

Letter to the editor

5/15/08 7:00pm

Unwitting faculty may fund genocideTo the editor:

Most Rice University professors and staff, I suspect, would be quite upset to learn that their family savings are helping to support the murderous regime in Sudan, which is waging genocide against its own people in Darfur. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced from their homes.

When I learned of this several months ago, I divested my retirement savings of all Fidelity funds, although reluctantly, because several of them had performed very well since I had acquired them. I wrote a letter to Fidelity explaining why I was divesting, but never received a reply.

Investors Against Genocide, a Boston-based non-profit organization, is leading a national campaign to make sure mutual fund companies do not invest our savings in companies that help fund genocide. Through this effort, a shareholder proposal has been submitted to more than 50 mutual funds asking them to institute oversight procedures to screen out investments in companies that, in the judgment of the board, substantially contribute to genocide.

Shareholders of fifteen Fidelity funds, including the widely held Contra, Magellan and Puritan funds, are now voting on this important social issue in advance of meetings on May 14. Fidelity has advised its shareholders to vote against making their funds genocide-free.

Fidelity shareholders can vote their shares by returning their proxy or attending the shareholder meeting. If they have already discarded their proxy materials, or have already voted and wish to change their vote, they can do so right up until the meeting on May 14.

I suspect that many individual investors do not want their family savings used to help support genocide. However, many of the votes on this proposal will be cast by large institutional shareholders and other industry insiders who tend to vote with management. Therefore, each vote cast by an individual investor is very important.

Momentum is building for genocide-free investing. The Fidelity votes have received widespread press coverage, and many national religious and human rights organizations have backed the proposal, including the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, American Jewish World Service, Physicians for Human Rights and the Armenian Assembly of America.

Even if you have not voted by May 14, you may still contact Fidelity Investments and express your views regarding its support of genocide.

Chandler Davidson

Sociology Professor Emeritus

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