Bernard Condon and Nathan Vardi in Forbes:
It would have been nice to have cash on hand to meet margin calls, but Harvard had next to none. That was because these supremely self-confident money managers were more than fully invested. As of June 30 they had, thanks to the fancy derivatives, a 105% long position in risky assets. The effect is akin to putting every last dollar of your portfolio to work and then borrowing another 5% to buy more stocks.
Desperate for cash, Harvard Management went to outside money managers begging for a return of money it had expected to keep parked away for a long time. It tried to sell off illiquid stakes in private equity partnerships but couldn't get a decent price. It unloaded two-thirds of a $2.9 billion stock portfolio into a falling market. And now, in the last phase of the cash-raising panic, the university is borrowing money, much like a homeowner who takes out a second mortgage in order to pay off credit card bills.