Does the trustee who socially invests entrusted funds breach his/her/its fiduciary duty of undivided loyalty, absent express authority to do so in the trust’s terms?

Charles E. Rounds, Jr.
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On February 8, 2015, The University of California Student Association [which purports to represent all 240,000 students enrolled in the UC system’s 10 campuses] passed [9-1-5] the following resolution, which, in part, calls upon the University to disinvest in U.S. bonds and other U.S. debt obligations:

“THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Board of Directors of the University of California Student Association determines if it is found that UC funds are being invested in any of the aforementioned governments [Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Russia, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Mexico, and the United States], the University of California Student Association calls upon the University of California to divest all stocks and securities of such governments, at such time and in such manner as fund trustee[sic] may determine, and maintain divestment from said governments, in accordance with the fund trustees’ fiduciary duty, until they meet the University of California endorsed Principles of Responsible Investment.”

In the resolution there is reference to some fiduciary duty of the fund trustees. The precise duty that the students have in mind, as well as to whom (or to what) that duty runs, is not explained. Social investing by fiduciaries, particularly trustees, is covered generally in §6.1.3.4 of Loring and Rounds: A Trustee’s Handbook. See pages 491-498 of the 2015 Edition, which are reprinted below.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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