Because universities are a significant investor, this paper explores processes of accountability and transparency in the management of “university” investment funds, with a focus on the University of Toronto (U of T). For the university’s “endowment fund,” managed by the arms-length entity University of Toronto Asset Management (UTAM), we query the large sums spent on outside investment advice and pose questions about how the imminent departure of the pension fund might affect current practices. We ask whether income from the endowment fund could be used for innovative purposes, such as a pandemic emergency fund, but find that current policies would likely disallow this possibility. The “pension fund,” up to now managed by UTAM, is about to split off to form the University Pension Plan (UPP), in which employee groups have equal weight with management. We utilize research on Canadian publicsector jointly-sponsored pension plans to suggest that U of T employees and activists ought to exercise vigilance over the new UPP. Even with employee group representation, trustees have usually favoured traditional approaches, and indeed have often acquiesced to investment policies that undermine the public sector.
Authors: Miriam Hird-Younger, Mariana Valverde