Nitin Nohira is named in the Panama Papers! 

This is actually not surprising considering all of the money flowing into Harvard through Nohira and the quid pro quo who attached to it. Where there is smoke there is fire. What is shocking is that Harvard is still considering him as the president of the university with all of these scandals are about to break.

As a point of reference, the people named in the Panama papers have one thing in common. They have a lot money and they want to hide it. Harvard’s endowment fund is the largest in the world. The President and Dean’s most important job is to raise money. Fundraising is the quality that puts Nohira on the top of list of potential new Presidents of Harvard. All of the accounts of quid pro quo between Dean Nohira and the companies who have donated to HBS make it easy to see how he would have money to hide. It is definitely Dean Nohira as it connects him to his address at 2 Hampton Rd in Lexington, Massachusetts. 

Other people of note named in the Panama Papers are Petro Poroshenko, ex president of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin and Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister who was asked to step down due disclosures in the Panama Papers. 

How is a prime minister of a country asked to step down from being named in the Panama Papers and a Dean of a business school is not even questioned? 

Harvard Students and Alumni demand that the search committee look into this. The Harvard community needs answers. 

Where there is so much smoke, there is bound to be fire.


As Harvard embarks on the important decision of whom to appoint as the President of Harvard University, the guardian of our values, we would like to make an urgent appeal to our fellow students, alumni and stakeholders of Harvard. 

We believe that the Chair of the President of Harvard must be occupied by a person who does not have the stain of conflict of interest or one who can potentially compromise his or her ethics for commercial gain. Such a person must not only be morally upright but also, like the proverbial Casear’s wife, be seen to be above suspicion.

Dean Nohria is one of the front runners for this prestigious post largely due to his ability to raise funds, no matter the cost. Fund raising ability is no doubt an important criteria in judging a candidate for the post of President, but this cannot be at the expense of risk to the brand of Harvard that has been built up over centuries.  Let’s look at all of the smoke - in addition to Nohira’s name involved in the Panama papers.  - in order to understand the fire. 

Dean Nohria’s proximity to a large global corporate from India [1], and his membership on their board in lieu of the large contribution made to HBS [2] has exposed him and the University to charges of conflict of interest [3] Indeed, the role of Dean Nohria in the corporate board room coup [4] at Tata and his failure to discharge his fiduciary duty as a Board member, and subjugated such interests to the wishes of the corporation. Ex President of Illinois University and author of “Boards That Excel” wrote that a Dean or President should never sit on the board of a large donor. This example explains why. 

Professor of Ethics Nohria has had his name figure in a scathing report of India’s regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, in a M&A transaction involving Abbott and a health care company in India.  The regulator imposed monetary penalties on the Indian businessman for violating India’s insider trading regulations.  What is disturbing is that Dean Nohria was the principal consultant to the Indian businessman and has been named in the report as the “consultant who was privy to all the information” in the deal. The report is publicly available at [5]

A plain reading of the surrounding facts reveals a pattern of “disturbing coincidences”.  First, Dean Nohria continues to serve and advise Mr. Piramal, the Indian businessman named in the insider trading [6] report mentioned before.  Surprisingly, Mr. Piramal in turn serves on Harvard Business School’s Board of Dean’s Advisors.

If one considers that Dean Nohria was also allegedly instrumental in roping in his Brother-on-law Mr. Amit Chandra and Mr. Piramal onto the Board of Tata, a month ahead of the tumultuous removal of the company’s chairman, then the chain of self-serving relationships become more evident. 

The use of close associates and family members in a board room environment risks conflicting interests that hurt corporate governance. [7] We at Harvard are taught to ring-fence and protect against both actual and perceived conflicts of interest to protect the highest standards of corporate governance.  It is a shame that Dean Nohria, fails to practice what he preaches.

As students, in the light of such information, we also begin to question, whether the case studies [8], anecdotal insights and classroom conversations of such Professors are also tainted by such conflicts. While the jury is out, our research shows a few case HBS studies including one that celebrates India’s US$3000 car, the Tata Nano, by calling it a runaway success, despite other academic pundits called it a ‘positioning disaster’ amongst others. This HBS case was written mere months after Tata donated $50 million to HBS through Dean Nohira. 

We run the risk of a generation of Harvard’s elite students questioning whether the case-studies, the very foundation of Harvard’s education system is compromised. While the clout of global corporates in academia and other bodies is whispered in the corridors, never before has such blatant conflicts come to light.  Such taints on a candidate [9] who could be the next President of Harvard University, our Nations’ leading academic light is disconcerting.    

It is the duty of us as students, and others including academics, global leaders, and personalities of eminence who hold the ideals of Harvard near to them, that we never allow anything that taints or erodes the credibility of our institution. The very core of what gives Harvard value - trust in honest and ethical academic excellence - is at stake. The ability to raise funds alone is not worth compromising what academia is all about.

Harvard has been For Sale. Nohira has been the broker. This must stop now or it will end in a scandal.