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PUC-Rio establishes first university endowment in Brazil

11 de dezembro de 2019


On the back of a new law regulating endowments in Brazil, Cescon, Barrieu, Flesch & Barreto Advogados has helped a group of former students from Brazilian catholic university PUC-Rio establish a fund backed by alumni donations to finance scholarships.

The fund will start operating on 11 December. While several individual departments of other universities, including USP’s engineering faculty and FGV’s law school, have well-established endowments, PUC-Rio’s will be the first to target all faculties at a university. The fund aims to gather donations from all of the university’s former students. It aims to raise 10 million reais (US$2.3 million) in the first 12 months and a total of 160 million reais (US$38 million) over the first five years.

Cescon Barrieu worked pro bono to structure the fund and partner Carlos Augusto Siqueira will head its first management board. A group of high-profile former students from PUC-Rio, which has one of Brazil’s most prestigious economics departments, are members of the 17-member management board. The list includes prominent economists Arminio Fraga and Pedro Malan. Former CVM president Marcelo Trindade and fund managers Rogério Xavier and Marcelo Mesquita are also members.

Siqueira told Latin Lawyer that the backing of high-profile former students will be important in the initial stages, but the idea is to reach out to a greater plethora of donators. The university has some 200,000 former students and the first challenge will be to gather them by establishing a social network platform. For that purpose, the endowment’s board has hired consultancy Graduway, which also works for the University of Oxford.

Siqueira thinks the endowment is dependent on a cultural change in which former students will get used to making donations, something that is not yet common in Brazil. This is partly because of the lack of structures to receive and manage donations. “Sometimes people don’t donate because there is no one asking for donations,” Siqueira says. Now that this structure exists, former students will have the opportunity to change the trend, he adds.

A new law regulating endowments in Brazil came into force in February. Legislators pushed the bill forward following public commotion spurred by the fire that led to the collapse of the National Museum in Rio in 2018. Siqueira explains that the new regulation provides further legal security for endowments, because it establishes separate entities to receive and manage donations. It also allows donors to target their contributions to a specific purpose, such as the construction of a building or a certain area of research. PUC’s Rio endowment will initially focus on providing scholarships.

Siqueira hopes PUC-Rio’s initiative inspires other institutions around the country to follow its example, including public universities. “This is an initiative for future generations. It is a financial investment, but it also carries an intangible benefit, which is cultural: the formation of a more active and participative citizen,” he says.

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