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Yale School of Management

Yale SOM MBAs Track Over 1,000 Companies Ending Russian Operations

Over 1,000 companies have curtailed operations in Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. That’s according to Jefferey Sonnenfeld, a professor at the Yale School of Management, who—with the help of over 20 Yale College and SOM students—researches and runs a database to keep track of each and every company that’s leaving.

Yale Daily News recently spoke to the team of students on what it’s like running the list and how they even started keeping track.

“Our goal is to disrupt and shake the Russian civil society out of its complacency,” Wiktor Babinski, a 2022 graduate of Yale College, says. “This list is supposed to make the Russian public feel the consequences of what its government, that they have elected in the last 20 years, is doing to them.”


After Russia invaded Ukraine, Sonnenfeld put a call out to students in his strategic leadership class asking if anyone had time to help him out with his list of companies. Part of the job is analyzing what percentage of Russia’s GDP has been affected.

“We are looking to quantify the impact on the Russian Economy,” Yash Bhansali, a Class of 2023 Yale undergraduate, says. “We are also looking at the way markets are rewarding those corporations that have led the withdrawal effort. … We have leveraged various financial databases such as Bloomberg, FactSet, CapitalIQ, MSCI, Thomson Reuters in addition to data from original source documents pulled by our team across 10 languages and 166 countries.”

Sonnenfeld’s list also gives companies a grade—ranging from A to F—based on how much their commitment to ending operations in Russia. An F letter grade company is one that refuses to exit Russian operations or is simply adhering to sanctions. An A grade company is committed to completely divesting from Russia and ending all operations in the country.

“Every day I was updating all the Fs,” Georgia Hirsty, a Class of 2022 Yale SOM student says. “So if a researcher sends me a company, and they say, I think this company has a D, because they’ve said that they’re suspending new investments. But then I go … and I’ll basically look up the article that they linked to verify that that’s what it in fact says, then I’ll check the company itself and see if they’ve had the statement that was maybe hard to find, maybe they have put out a new statement or said something in their SEC filings and so it’s just kind of another layer.”


The team also researches information on companies to determine whether exit plans are real or just a PR campaign.

“These companies are very deceptive,” Franek Sokolowski, a Class of 2025 student, says. “We are trying to outsmart them as much as we can. … So we are in this unfortunate position where because we rely on facts, we sometimes cannot publish something even if it’s true.”

Additionally, students track companies by sector—from fashion to biotech.

“I’m basically just looking at essentially like the biggest companies by revenue so far in the fashion sector and the consumer goods sector,” Cate Littlefield, a Class of 2022 Yale SOM student, says. “From a name brand like Chanel that we all recognize to something that’s slightly more obscure. … I’ve been starting with basically a list of these large companies in both sectors and then just kind of systematically going through them one by one looking at their press statements or social media feeds … to see what statements they’ve made on the war in Ukraine and how their operations have been impacted by it, whether they’ve chosen to totally shut down operations or scale them back.”

The team says they hope to keep the list running for as long as Russian forces remain in Ukraine. But operating a list this extensive is no easy feat. Students say they each average more than 40 hours a week working on keeping the list up to date. While the work is challenging, students say it’s worth it.

“A lot of the time, you really do feel a moral impetus to see what you’re doing,” Sokolowski says. “And you really can see the positive impact that you’re having. And this makes it a lot easier to actually just put down whatever you’re doing and, you know, pursue the project because you really know that you’re doing the right thing. And you really know that you are having a tangible impact on the lives of the people. And I think that that knowledge is really helpful for us in accommodating this with our own lives.”

Sources: Yale Daily News, The New York Times

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