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Robert H. Sitkoff

  • US academics challenge whether ESG investing must be fiduciary duty

    July 23, 2019

    Two US law professors have challenged one of the key narratives deployed by the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and others in favour of ESG investing. According to Max Schanzenbach, of the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, and Robert Sitkoff, at Harvard Law School, the argument that ESG investing by pension trustees is mandated under fiduciary principles was usually based on a “syllogism” riddled with errors. Writing in an article destined for the Stanford Law Review next year, the professors argued that the reasoning behind this position typically followed three steps: “(1) ESG factors are related to a firm’s long-term financial performance; (2) the duty of prudence requires a trustee to consider material information; and (3) therefore a trustee must consider ESG factors”.

  • Fund Managers Are More Moral Than You’d Think

    June 25, 2019

    Including environmental, social and governance considerations in investment decisions is becoming of paramount importance for the fund management industry. Moreover, those principles may be coming into force in asset allocation even faster than previously thought...Legally, trustees “must consider only the interests of the beneficiary,” Max Schanzenbach of Northwestern University and Robert Sitkoff of Harvard Law School wrote. That would bar a fund manager motivated purely by ethical considerations from allowing ESG concerns to steer investment decisions. If, however, the trustee is convinced that pursuing such an investment philosophy will generate higher returns, the legal requirement would be satisfied. But the professors warn that the evidence for that is far from conclusive. Studies “have exaggerated the potential for ESG factors to generate excess risk-adjusted returns, and have failed to appreciate the instability and lack of robustness in academic findings,” they wrote.

  • Fund Managers Are More Moral Than You’d Think

    June 17, 2019

    Including environmental, social and governance considerations in investment decisions is becoming of paramount importance for the fund management industry. Moreover, those principles may be coming into force in asset allocation even faster than previously thought. A new survey of ESG adoption rates, from UBS Group AG’s asset management unit and Responsible Investor Research, covers more than 600 asset owners in 46 countries, responsible for more than 19 trillion euros ($21 trillion) of assets...Legally, trustees “must consider only the interests of the beneficiary,” Max Schanzenbach of Northwestern University and Robert Sitkoff of Harvard Law School wrote. That would bar a fund manager motivated purely by ethical considerations from allowing ESG concerns to steer investment decisions. If, however, the trustee is convinced that pursuing such an investment philosophy will generate higher returns, the legal requirement would be satisfied. But the professors warn that the evidence for that is far from conclusive. Studies “have exaggerated the potential for ESG factors to generate excess risk-adjusted returns, and have failed to appreciate the instability and lack of robustness in academic findings,” they wrote.

  • Robert Sitkoff

    Sitkoff, HLS authors contribute to the study of fiduciary law

    April 29, 2019

    Harvard Law School Professor Robert H. Sitkoff has co-edited The Oxford Handbook of Fiduciary Law, a handbook, slated for release today, that features important contributions from Sitkoff and from several other HLS scholars to the growing field of fiduciary law throughout its 48 chapters.

  • ‘Investing for Good’ Meets the Law

    December 10, 2018

    An op-ed by Max M. Schanzenbach and Robert H. Sitkoff. Trustees of pensions, university endowments and trust funds are facing renewed pressure to do social good while investing other people’s money. It isn’t only student activists but the United Nations and even BlackRock CEO Larry Fink who argue that environmental, social and governance investing, or ESG, will do good for the world while improving returns for beneficiaries. Thousands of investment managers have pledged to abide by a U.N.-sponsored statement of ESG principles. Yet the zealous push for fiduciaries to embrace ESG faces barriers under longstanding American law—with good reason. In general, the law says little about what people may do with their own money. But it has much to say about what trustees and other investment fiduciaries do with their beneficiaries’ money.

  • Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning: When to Start and Mistakes to Avoid

    October 11, 2018

    An estate plan requires planning. To put a fine point on it, a solid estate plan determines who gets what when you die, “preferably in a tax-efficient manner and with creditor protection,” says Robert H. Sitkoff, the John L. Gray professor of law at Harvard Law School. But death isn’t the sole reason for estate planning. A thorough plan will also include incapacity planning—deciding who will make decisions for you and who will take care of your children if you become debilitated. As we all know but would rather not think about, “mental and physical decay may precede death,” says Sitkoff. That’s why incapacity planning is a part of a good estate plan and is becoming more important because of our “ever-increasing human longevity.”

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    Sitkoff leads drafting of directed trust law

    October 17, 2017

    Robert H. Sitkoff, the John L. Gray Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, chaired the drafting committee that finalized the Uniform Directed Trust Act (UDTA), which the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) approved July 19, 2017.

  • Robert Sitkoff

    Sitkoff appointed to Drafting Committee for Uniform Electronic Wills Act

    April 4, 2017

    Robert H. Sitkoff, the John L. Gray Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, has been appointed to the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) drafting committee for an Act on Electronic Wills.

  • President Trump’s deep ties to his business empire remain, trust documents show

    February 6, 2017

    During his first news conference as President-elect last month, Donald Trump boasted that even though he could continue to run his sprawling business empire, he wouldn't because he didn't like "the way that looks."..."A revocable trust is a wholly inadequate trust to separate from a conflict of interest," Harvard Law School Professor Robert Sitkoff told the Daily News. "Trump has the power to override any decisions … It is not a functional separation, only a formal separation."

  • Trust Records Show Trump Is Still Closely Tied to His Empire

    February 5, 2017

    Just days before his inauguration, President-elect Donald J. Trump stood beside his tax lawyer at a Midtown Manhattan news conference as she announced that he planned to place his vast business holdings in a trust, a move she said would allay fears that he might exploit the Oval Office for personal gain. However, a number of questions were left unanswered — including who would ultimately benefit from the trust — raising concerns about just how meaningful the move was...Robert H. Sitkoff, a professor at Harvard Law School, said the new details in the trust documents were unlikely to resolve the apparent legal problems with the Old Post Office site.“Formally he is no longer the owner, but functionally he still is,” he said.

  • No candy-coating lack of charity at Hershey School

    November 7, 2016

    Here amid the screaming riders of the Hersheypark roller-coasters and delighted customers of Hershey's Chocolate World is an educational institution unlike any other: a boarding school for poor kids that has more money than it can spend. Gushing with cash, the charitable Milton Hershey School has amassed more assets than every elite private college-prep school in the nation. ... Robert Sitkoff, a Harvard Law professor who has studied the Hershey School, said that when a charity "has resources out-of-proportion to its mission, you invite waste and mismanagement because there is all this slack. The trend in the law is to expand the charitable purpose when there are more resources, not buy golf courses."

  • A chocolate war is about to heat up in the U.S.

    September 22, 2016

    When an Oreo-flavored chocolate bar hits the shelves in the U.S. soon, most consumers will look at it as just another treat. But Wall Street being Wall Street, this innocent indulgence is way more than that. The little chocolate bar is really a howitzer in a rolling 15-year battle by a parade of suitors to take over one of the great iconic brands: Hershey Co...As if that weren’t bad enough, an unusual Pennsylvania law gives the state’s attorney general power to block Hershey takeovers, even when the trust wants to sell. Hershey is a big employer in Pennsylvania. Locals, perhaps rightly, fear that they could lose their jobs in a takeover as a result of cost cutting. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania attorneys general, who oversee the trust by law, have a habit of running for governor. This means they’re often tempted to do what’s “considered expedient locally,” says Harvard Law School professor Robert Sitkoff, an expert on charitable trusts.

  • Back-Stabbing and Threats of a ‘Suicide Parachute’ at Hershey

    August 1, 2016

    ...Given this show of discipline, it may come as a surprise to learn that in recent years, some serious behavioral issues have convulsed the Milton Hershey School. But the problem isn’t the students. The problem is the adults in charge. Thanks to a historic gift by M.H.S.’s founder, the Hershey Trust Company has an endowment of $12.3 billion and an ownership stake in Hershey Company, giving it control of the candy dynasty behind Kit Kat, Reese’s and Hershey’s Kisses, to name a few. With Hershey now the subject of a $23 billion takeover bid, the trust is enduring one of its periodic turns in the klieg lights, and the timing is hardly ideal. A leaked internal memo has revealed back-stabbing, allegations of insider trading and the threat of something called a “suicide parachute.”...For good measure, the state legislature passed a law that year mandating that Hershey cannot be sold without the approval of the attorney general. While arguably a boon for the community, the law, according to Robert H. Sitkoff, a professor at Harvard Law School, was also indefensible. “Imagine if the legislature of New Jersey passed a bill that said Princeton had to invest more than half of its endowment in one local company?” Mr. Sitkoff said. “That’s what the Pennsylvania Legislature did in 2002. It’s outrageous. The trust is supposed to be rescuing needy kids.”

  • Hershey Trust reaches in-principle reform agreement

    July 25, 2016

    The board of the charitable trust that controls Hershey Co said on Friday it had reached an in-principle agreement with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office that would avoid a legal row in exchange for reforms in how it is run. The settlement could provide stability to the trust following months of infighting and confrontation with the attorney general's office. It could also offer the clarity needed for Mondelez International Inc to make a new approach to acquire Hershey...In 2002, the trust cited the need for diversification as a reason of putting Hershey up for sale. Hershey then attracted a $12.5 billion offer by chewing gum maker Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. However, the deal was abandoned after Pennsylvania's Attorney General successfully petitioned a court to block the offer amid opposition from the local community. "This portfolio that is meant to rescue needy children is being exposed to needless risk that could be diversified away without compromising expected return." said Robert Sitkoff, a Harvard Law School professor specializing in wills, trusts, estates, and fiduciary administration.

  • Prospective Hershey Suitors Face Numerous Unusual Hurdles

    July 4, 2016

    Snack maker Mondelez International Inc. or any other potential bidder for Hershey Co. is up against not only a board that indicated it doesn’t want to sell, but a secretive, controlling shareholder—and the state’s top law officer. Mondelez, whose roughly $23 billion bid was quickly rebuffed this week, is expected to continue fighting for a union...Other food makers, including Kellogg Co. and Campbell Soup Co. , have significant ownership by family and trusts, but Hershey is further subject to a state law that requires the top law-enforcement official to green light the sale of any company controlled by a charitable trust.The law is a “public policy tragedy,” according to Robert Sitkoff, a Harvard Law School professor who has studied the trust. He said that diversifying the trust’s portfolio would benefit the school and community but said he thinks any deal would face difficulties.

  • A Trust and Estates lawyer’s ‘last lecture’: ‘Hope for the best; plan for the worst’

    April 27, 2016

    On March 29, in his contribution to the HLS Class Marshals' Last Lecture series, Robert Sitkoff, an expert in trusts and estates, explained the impact and importance of private law in enabling individuals to organize their lives and relationships with one another.

  • ‘Last Lecture’: Annette Gordon-Reed traces her journey from Texas childhood to lawyer and historian

    April 6, 2016

    As part of the Last Lecture Series presented every year by the HLS Class Marshals, Professor Annette Gordon-Reed ’84 spoke about her experiences combining legal analysis and historical research.

  • Fla. Tribe Says Suit Over $1.4B Trust Belongs In State Court

    April 5, 2016

    The Seminole Tribe of Florida urged a district court Friday to remand to state court a lawsuit accusing Wells Fargo of mismanaging a $1.4 billion trust, saying that its breach of trust claims do not belong in federal court. ... Moreover, the minor beneficiaries would not normally be understood by trust lawyers as the purchasers or sellers of securities held in trust, Harvard Law Professor Robert Sitkoff said. The experts’ opinions show that precluding the lawsuit under SLUSA would have far-reaching consequences such as enabling trustees to misappropriate trust property “with impunity,” insulating trustees from fiduciary accountability and sacrificing “portfolio efficiency” by removing several asset classes as potential investments, the tribe said.

  • DoL Fiduciary Rule: ‘Disruptive but Manageable’

    December 12, 2015

    ...The morning brought lectures on fiduciary law given by two prominent law professors from Harvard and Yale...Chatty and colloquial, Harvard professor Robert Sitkoff, touted as the youngest in law school history to win an endowed chair, broke the ice by referring to "fiduciary" as the F-word...The key takeaways from the lectures included Sitkoff's statement that the way to insure that an adviser acts in a client's best interest is via fiduciary law.

  • When Unhappy Donors Want Their Money Back

    December 15, 2014

    For most people, giving money to charity feels great. Asking for the money back is a whole different story. Yet philanthropy experts say donors increasingly are doing just that: requesting “refunds” on gifts they feel have been misused, ignored, or spent in a way that strays from their original reason for giving...“About 30 states have the Uniform Trust Code, which authorizes donor standing to enforce a charitable trust,” says Robert Sitkoff, a professor at Harvard Law School who studies wills, trusts and estates. But “a New York court has gone further, recognizing donor standing to enforce other kinds of charitable gifts, too.”

  • The Ins and Outs of Perpetual Trusts

    December 5, 2014

    Most people struggle to plan their financial futures beyond the next decade, while those with money and foresight are likely to think well in advance about what they want to leave their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. But what about planning for eternity? It seems too long to contemplate. Yet in the last several decades, states have begun competing with one another for the business of perpetual trusts, which are designed to last forever, or at least 1,000 years in the case of Wyoming...But now a Harvard Law School professor, Robert H. Sitkoff, has written an academic paper making the case that perpetual trusts are unconstitutional in some of the very states that have tried hardest to persuade people to establish them..."Why do we care about these perpetual trusts?” Mr. Sitkoff said. “Because there’s a lot of money in them. Billions of dollars is pouring into these jurisdictions.”

  • Robert Sitkoff speaking at a podium

    Sitkoff named chair of Drafting Committee for Act on Divided Trusteeship

    September 19, 2014

    Robert H. Sitkoff, the John L. Gray Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, has been named Chair of the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) drafting committee for an Act on Divided Trusteeship.

  • How to Cope With Credit Card Bills After a Family Member Dies

    June 23, 2014

    Whether you’re rich or poor, famous or obscure, if you have a will, chances are it says something to the effect of, “pay my debts before you pay my heirs.”…State law offers some protection with what’s called a creditor period – a certain length of time (ranging from two months after the start of probate to five years from the date of death) after which the executor can pay beneficiaries without worrying about creditors’ claims, explains Harvard Law professor Robert H. Sitkoff.

  • Jessica Beess und Chrostin '13

    Jessica Beess und Chrostin ’13 wins ABA writing award

    October 3, 2013

    Recent Harvard Law School Graduate Jessica Beess und Chrostin '13 won a major law student writing competition with her paper, "Mandatory Arbitration Clauses in Donative Instruments: A Taxonomy of Disputes and Type-Differentiated Analysis." The contest was sponsored by the Real Property, Trust and Estate Law section of the American Bar Association.

  • Sitkoff contributes to Uniform Powers of Appointment Act

    August 26, 2013

    In early July, the Uniform Law Commission approved a new act, the Uniform Powers of Appointment Act, at its annual meeting held this year in Boston. Harvard Law School Professor Robert H. Sitkoff, who focuses his research on economic and empirical analysis of the law of trusts and estates, served on the drafting committee for the Act. The Act codifies the law of powers of appointment, a staple of modern estate-planning practice.

  • HLS Professor Mark Roe

    A roundtable at HLS on corporate time horizons

    October 22, 2012

    A group of senior corporate managers, finance practitioners, and academics from Europe and the U.S. gathered at HLS on Sept. 14-15 for a conference on the role of corporate governance in encouraging long-term value in public corporations.

  • Sitkoff appointed to two new ULC committees

    October 4, 2012

    Robert H. Sitkoff, the John L. Gray Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, has been appointed to two new Uniform Law Commission committees—the study committee on trust protectors, and the drafting committee on Series of Unincorporated Business Entities.

  • Sitkoff contributes to the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act

    August 29, 2012

    In late July, the Uniform Law Commission approved the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act (UPMAA) at its annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. Harvard Law School Professor Robert H. Sitkoff, whose primary research focus is economic and empirical analysis of the law of trusts and estates, served on the drafting committee for the Act.

  • Robert Sitkoff and Jonathan Zittrain at the 19th annual Public Interest Auction

    More than $80,000 raised for Summer Public Interest Funding at annual auction

    May 21, 2012

    Where can you pick up a lunch with Larry Summers, a fashion-forward shopping spree with a Harvard Law School professor or a Justice David Souter bobblehead? The HLS annual Public Interest Auction, of course.

  • Sitkoff named to drafting committee for Uniform Act on Powers of Appointment

    March 14, 2011

    The Uniform Law Commission has formed a new drafting committee to prepare a Uniform Act on Powers of Appointment. Robert H. Sitkoff, the John L. Gray Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, has been named as a member of the drafting committee. An expert in trusts and estates, Sitkoff serves under gubernatorial appointment as a Uniform Law Commissioner from Massachusetts.

  • Sitkoff essay on law reform in trusts and estates appears in JOTWELL

    December 15, 2010

    JOTWELL—the Journal of Things We Like (Lots)—published “Top-Down Versus Bottom-Up Law Reform in Trusts and Estates: Future Interests and Perpetuities” by HLS Professor Robert Sitkoff on Nov. 22.

  • Sitkoff elected Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel

    October 29, 2010

    Robert H. Sitkoff, the John L. Gray Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, was elected an Academic Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, a national professional organization of approximately 2,600 lawyers who specialize in trusts and estates.

  • Sitkoff in WSJ on Cadbury-Hershey

    November 25, 2009

    Milton Hershey had no children so he said he would make the “orphan boys of the United States” his heirs.To that end, the chocolatier founded the Milton Hershey School, which today serves 1,700 underprivileged children and has an endowment of $6.2 billion. In 2005, Hershey had the nation’s fifth largest endowment, which was about half the size of Princeton’s and Stanford’s but larger than that of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  • Sitkoff Reappointed to Uniform Law Commission

    November 18, 2009

    Harvard Law School Professor Robert Sitkoff has been reappointed to serve a new five-year term on the Uniform Law Commission by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Sitkoff is one of three commissioners representing the Commonwealth.  He has served as an interim commissioner since March of 2008.

  • Taking the Gray chair, Sitkoff describes a revolution in trust law

    June 10, 2009

    In an April 29 lecture, Harvard Law School Professor Robert H. Sitkoff discussed the causes and consequences of revolutionary changes in American trust law. The talk, entitled “Lawyers, Banks, and Money: The Quiet Revolution in American Trust Law,” was part of an event honoring Sitkoff on his appointment as the John L. Gray Professor of Law. (Watch a webcast of the event.)

  • Langdell Hall

    Revolutionary ideas presented in spring faculty lectures

    May 22, 2009

    This spring, two faculty members, Bruce Mann, the Carl F. Schipper, Jr. Professor of Law, and Robert Sitkoff, the John L. Gray Professor of Law, gave lectures to commemorate their appointments to endowed chairs. News coverage and video of their lectures are included below.

  • Sitkoff delivers Trachtman Lecture to American College of Trust and Estate Counsel

    April 1, 2009

    Robert Sitkoff, John L. Gray Professor of Law at HLS, gave this year’s Joseph Trachtman Memorial Lecture at the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel in Los Angeles in March.

  • Professor Robert H. Sitkoff

    Sitkoff Addresses Delaware Trust Conference

    January 25, 2009

    Robert Sitkoff, John L. Gray Professor of Law at HLS, recently delivered the keynote address at the 2008 Delaware Trust Conference sponsored by the Delaware Bankers Association.

  • Robert Sitkoff

    The Rap on RAP

    December 1, 2008

    A renowned expert on trusts and estates, Professor Robert Sitkoff joined the HLS faculty this fall from New York University School of Law. He says we are in the midst of a “quiet revolution in modern American trust law.” Here, he explains.

  • Professor Robert H. Sitkoff

    When Sweet Charity Became Bittersweet: Lessons from the Hershey “Kiss-off” of 2002

    September 24, 2008

    About a hundred years ago, when Milton Hershey founded the Hershey Company—now the largest confectionery company in North America—he also established a school for needy children, and a charitable trust for the benefit of the school. Today, the trust—worth over $8 billion—holds a controlling interest in the publicly traded Hershey Company.

  • Professor Robert H. Sitkoff

    Sitkoff to represent Massachusetts on the Uniform Law Commission

    March 8, 2008

    Harvard Law School Professor Robert Sitkoff was recently appointed to serve on the Uniform Law Commission by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Sitkoff is one of three commissioners representing the state.

  • Professor Robert H. Sitkoff

    Sitkoff named an up and coming lawyer for 2007

    September 27, 2007

    Harvard Law School Professor Robert H. Sitkoff has been named one of Lawyers Weekly’s up and coming lawyers of 2007. A leading expert in trusts and estates, Sitkoff joined the HLS faculty this year.

  • Professor Robert H. Sitkoff

    Robert H. Sitkoff joins HLS faculty

    May 23, 2007

    Robert H. Sitkoff, currently a tenured professor at the New York University School of Law and an expert in trusts and estates, has accepted an offer to join the Harvard Law School faculty.