Editorial: The University’s history of offshore investments undermine its integrity

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | November 16, 2017

Last week, a leak of financial documents exposed the offshore financial holdings of a slew of important individuals and corporations. Dubbed the “Paradise Papers,” the documents shed light on the hidden financial activities of people like the Queen of England and members of Trump’s cabinet.  The leaks also shed light on organizations such as Facebook, Apple, and our very own Johns Hopkins University.

Wealthy individuals and corporations frequently hide their assets in  these offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes. While these holdings are not illegal, they are often used to hide morally ambiguous transactions and conflicts of interest. It is hypocritical for companies and individuals to promote their own “transparency” while they sequester their money away from the public’s eye.

The Paradise Papers revealed that in 2003, Hopkins was partnered with four other elite universities to create a Bermuda-based group called H&F Investors Blocker. In 2011, this group was dissolved.

We are disappointed that Hopkins took part in this practice at all, especially considering that as a nonprofit, the University is required to pay comparatively little federal, state or city taxes.

We understand why the University does not want to pay taxes. But, we must all remember that taxes play a key role in funding the public institutions that we rely on. While the University is following the letter of the law, it is neglecting its spirit.

The University describes the endowment’s mission  as “fuel[ing] progress in research, patient care, and teaching” and we acknowledge that increasing the University’s endowment helps it to pursue those goals. However, it is important that these investments are transparent and demonstrate the University’s commitment to its mission.

Hopkins should never have taken part in this “H&F Investors Blocker” scheme to begin with. Given the University’s response to our reporters’ inquiries, we are concerned about whether the school continues to engage in such practices.

When our reporters asked about the University’s past dealings with H&F Investors Blocker, the University dodged the question.

When our reporters asked the University about whether it currently holds any offshore accounts, the University dodged the question.

This leads us to ask the question: What does Hopkins have to hide?

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