Hollywood celebs are again wielding their clout to save the world. Actress Mia Farrow launched a campaign at the beginning of May to urge Fidelity Investments to divest its holdings in an oil company that has significant operations in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan. In less than three weeks it has already had a major impact.
According to a May 15 regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the mutual fund giant slashed its holding in PetroChina ADRs by 91 percent from year-end to the end of the first quarter, down to 420,916 ADRs. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, another major PetroChina shareholder, has also been the target of campaigns by human rights groups to divest its investment in Asia's leading oil and gas producer.
The activist groups, which included the Save Darfur Coalition, the Sudan Divestment Task Force and Fidelity Out of Sudan, have been running ads criticizing Fidelity and Berkshire PetroChina stakes. Major media outlets including The New York Times, CNN, Newsweek, BusinessWeek and the Boston Globe all turned down anti-Fidelity ads sponsored by the Save Darfur Coalition, saying that it would single out one company for the actions of many that invest in similar resources. (And perhaps hurt advertising revenues?)
Buffett, who decided not to divest, publicly explained his reasons for doing so, took questions about the issue at Berkshire's shareholder meeting and invited shareholders to vote on the matter.