Legal & General, Church Commissioners among investors launching PRI-hosted tax initiative

Webinar to feature informal discussion as investor interest in tax issues increases

Rathbone Greenbank Investments, Legal and General Investment Management, the Church Commissioners and Royal London Asset Management are set to open up about their two-year engagement with companies on taxation via the launch of a shared space hosted by the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and a webinar.

Speaking to Responsible Investor, Kate Elliot, an Ethical Researcher at Rathbone Greenbank, the UK-based SRI specialist with more than £680m (€889.4m) under management, said the January 28 webinar would be an informal discussion with other investors featuring speakers from different regions. Hosted by the PRI, it will be open to PRI signatories only.

Going forward, the PRI will host a workspace for PRI signatories to share insights on tax from their markets and co-ordinate future engagement work.

Speaking about Rathbone’s engagement work with other investors over the past two years, Elliot said it had met with senior tax or finance department representatives within the mining and consumer goods sector on tax policy, governance and disclosure. It also met with representatives from tax advisory firms, NGOs and the OECD.It led to a private discussion paper for investors. Elliot said the paper, which may not be publicly published, gave an idea of what leading and laggard companies were doing in tax practice, governance and disclosure.

She said some companies were happy to talk about the issue, while others had concerns. “They felt the debate had been largely dominated by NGOs,” she said. “For some companies their fingers had been burnt by talking openly. There was a certain amount of reticence initially but having private discussions has encouraged them to be as open as possible.”

From feedback sessions at the launch event of the paper, Elliot said it became clear there was interest among investors on the issue and they were keen to learn more about tax risks.

The issue was highlighted last week when leading pension fund investors from Canada and the Netherlands made the case that proposals aimed at curbing multinational companies’ tax avoidance could hit institutional investors’ cross-border investment.

Rathbone Greenbank is part of Rathbone Brothers Plc, the listed fund management firm which traces its roots back to 1742 and which has £26.3bn under management. Link