Bullock Rules that University Endowments do not have to be Invested Through State’s Unified Investment Program
HELENA – In a formal opinion issued Friday, Attorney General Steve Bullock has concluded that donations and grants endowed directly to Montana universities can be invested according to policy set by the Board of Regents, rather than being restricted to the state’s unified investment program.
The attorney general’s opinion was requested by legislative auditor Tori Hunthausen, after a legislative audit noted that funds endowed to the University of Montana are invested in “equity pools.” The Legislative Auditor’s Office wanted to clarify whether this was permissible or whether endowments fell under the definition of “public funds” that, by law, cannot be invested in private corporate capital stock.
The opinion concluded that endowment funds are not included in the permanent funds of the Montana university system and nor are they “public funds” of the state. Instead endowments are private or federal funds that may be invested by the Board of Regents outside of the state’s unified investment program to support a Montana university or a specific program.
Opinions of the attorney general carry the weight of law unless a court overturns them or the legislature modifies the laws involved.