Paradise Papers Reveal Bay Area Nonprofits Invest Millions In Fossil Fuels

Some of the biggest nonprofits in the country tout their donations to causes that help the environment and fight global warming. But an NBC News investigation has found many of those groups have invested millions in companies that support the oil and gas industry.

Last year, a trove of 13 million financial documents were leaked from a Bermuda based law firm. They shine a light into the often secretive world of offshore investments. An NBC News analysis of portions of the so-called Paradise Papers found deals with more than 200 groups, many of them touting their support of environmental causes.

The analysis shows the World Wildlife Fund, the Academy of Sciences, and the Packard Foundation have investments in fossil fuels. Some of these groups say they have already shed some of their holdings and invested more in renewable resources.

Professor of entrepreneurial finance Robert Whitelaw says divesting can be complicated.

“Those funds are set up to last, up to say, 10 years. And those are going to be extremely difficult to divest from and maybe even costly,” Whitelaw said.

One group that does not plan to divest is the Packard Foundation. The Los Altos-based nonprofit has given dozens of grants to environmental groups but also has $50 million in oil and gas holdings.

The foundation, worth more than $7 billion, issued a statement reading in part, “We give these (fund) managers the discretion, with no screens, to invest in ways that will maximize the growth of our endowment.”

NBC News worked with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to sift through and research the millions of documents leaked in the Paradise Papers.

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