In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayo Clinic’s investment in an oil and gas company lost more than $45 million in the first quarter of 2020, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

An investment valued at $72.4 million at the end of 2019 in Texas-based Black Stone Minerals plummeted to a value of $26.7 million by the end of March 2020.

Black Stone Minerals is one of the largest owners of oil and natural gas mineral interests in the United States, with interests covering more than 20 million acres in 41 states.

This loss was reported in a 13F filing with the SEC that’s required for direct equity investments totaling $100 million or more.

While Mayo Clinic has much larger investments managed by others, this form listed seven companies where clinic officials directly manage the investments.

The other six firms listed are all health and bioscience companies. However, the Black Stone investment is more than double all of the others combined, which added up to $12.9 million at the end of March. Those combined other six companies lost just a total of $3 million in the first quarter.

Mayo Clinic characterizes the Black Stone investment as a minor part of the total $11.1 billion in investments Mayo held at the end of 2019.

Requests to interview Mayo Clinic Assistant Treasurer Ricky J. Haeflinger were declined. Haeflinger has been on the board of directors for Black Stone Minerals and Black Stone Natural Resources since 2013. Clinic officials also declined to answer questions about why the nonprofit hospital has chosen to invest more money in an oil and gas company than health-related ones.

A general statement about the loss was released by Mayo Clinic Spokesman Jay Furst.

“Mayo Clinic’s investment portfolios support its mission of clinical care, research and education, and providing compassion, expertise and answers to everyone who needs healing. Mayo Clinic has a small position in Black Stone Minerals stock that represents a small fraction of our overall investments; more detailed information is confidential and we do not disclose publicly any more than is included in our audited financial statements. All proceeds from our investments support Mayo Clinic’s mission.”

Mayo Clinic has been criticized in the past for its links to the fossil fuel industry. Mayo Clinic also owns Latigo Petroleum LLC, which operated 87 oil and gas wells in 2019.

The clinic’s audited financial report showed that it held $155 million in oil and gas interests at the end of 2019. That’s almost double the $81 million in oil and gas investments it held in 2018. It reported revenue of $28 million from “oil- and gas-producing activities” in 2019, which is the same amount it reported for 2018.

Rick Morris, Rochester’s Sierra Club organizing representative and clean energy campaign organizer, has previously called for Mayo Clinic to divest of its fossil fuel holdings.

Rick Morris
Rick Morris

“It's disappointing that the clinic continues to double down on their ties with the oil and gas industry. Many health care organizations are moving away from oil and gas investment now in the same way they divested from cigarette and tobacco companies when we learned just how disastrous the industry is for public health,” Morris wrote in response to the SEC filing. “With this recent $45 million loss, it's clear that oil and gas investment is just as risky financially as it is for our communities' health.”

"Climate change is a public health crisis," Morris continued. "We hope that one day "the needs of the patient comes first" will truly be the Mayo Clinic's primary value in all their decision making – from the ICU to the board room.