UPenn Trustee Faces Scrutiny Over Anti-Semitism Response Amidst Wall Street Ties
Edited by: Fern Sidman
Scott Bok, the chair of the University of Pennsylvania board of trustees, is under fire for his alleged weak response to anti-Semitism on the university campus, as was reported by the New York Post. As influential donors, including Jon Huntsman Jr., Edgar Bronfman Jr., and Ron Lauder, call for his resignation, Bok’s role as CEO of boutique investment bank Greenhill & Co. faces potential discomfort, the Post report said. Greenhill recently agreed to be acquired by Japan-based Mizuho Securities in a $550 million deal awaiting regulatory approval.
Sources have expressed skepticism about Greenhill’s recent performance, noting that the firm has not secured a significant deal in years and lacks the traction seen by other competitors like Moelis & Co.,the Post report said.
According to public filings, Bok is set to become chairman of the M&A and restructuring advisory business within Mizuho’s banking division, led by Michal Katz, who has expressed the importance of cultural connections in banking, especially with Israeli companies, as was indicated in the Post report.
Katz is an Israeli-born banker who is outspoken about her Jewish roots. As was noted in the Post report, during a 2017 interview with left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Katz drove home how important it is to have Jewish bankers working with Jewish companies, the report in the Post said.
“Israeli companies still appreciate banks that invest in Israel and are involved in activity in Israel,” Katz said at the time, the Post noted. “The directors of Israeli companies like working with Israeli bankers, because the cultural connection helps.”
The acquisition is part of Mizuho’s strategy to enhance its capabilities, particularly in dealings with firms like Apollo Global Management. A source told the Post that earlier this year, MIzuho hired Jeff Jaenicke, the former global head of fund financing at Credit Suisse, for his relationships at PE giants.
One source also told the Post that “Half of Wall Street has written letters calling for his removal from Penn.”
Apollo Global Management, whose CEO Marc Rowan is spearheading the campaign for Bok’s removal at UPenn, happens to be an important client of Mizuho. Rowan has urged fellow donors to withhold contributions to UPenn in protest.
Recent headlines from UPenn include a longtime rabbi at the school lamenting the lack of a safe space for Jewish students since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in which 1200 Israelis and others were brutally murdered. Jewish students have reported facing anti-Semitic chants at pro-Palestinian rallies, contributing to the scrutiny of the university’s response to such incidents, according to the Post report. One chant in particular that could be heard at pro-Palestinian rallies and which irked Jewish students was “There is only one solution: intifada resolution.”
Professor Steven Solomon of Berkeley School of Law suggested in a LinkedIn post that the calls for Bok’s ouster by prominent donors may be impacting his ability to conduct future investment banking, thereby causing material harm to Greenhill, the Post report said.
Despite the scrutiny, Bok remains focused on the Mizuho deal, stating in a written statement that progress has been made, and they expect to complete the transaction within weeks, according to the Post report. A Mizuho spokesperson confirmed that the deal is moving forward but declined further comment.
Legal experts suggest that the likelihood of Mizuho scrapping the deal entirely, especially based on a material adverse clause, appears low at this point. The Post report also noted that while some argue that Bok should adjust his approach to alleviate concerns, proving a material adverse effect would be challenging unless Greenhill loses a significant number of clients.
As the controversy continues, Bok’s dual roles at Greenhill and Mizuho remain in the spotlight, highlighting the intersection of business, reputation, and corporate responsibility.
As the situation unfolds, it remains to be seen how Bok’s responsibilities at Greenhill and Mizuho will be affected by the ongoing dispute at UPenn.