RI Briefing, December 7: Hedge fund giant signs up to UN Principles for Responsible Investment

RI’s regular round-up of responsible investing news

Man Group, the London-listed alternatives firm with £64.5bn (€75.3bn) in assets under management, has signed up to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment, according to the PRI website. Among other new signatories are consulting firms FAROS Consulting of Germany and Cardano Risk Management.

The charity and not-for-profit sector in the Netherlands is doing little to increase the incorporation of responsible investment into the management of their assets, according to the latest report by VBDO, the Dutch SIF. The report, titled “Benchmark responsible investment: fundraising charities and foundations in the Netherlands 2011”, said that while responses to the survey had increased and that most charities and foundations had a responsible investment policy, it is applied in a limited, opaque fashion. Link

The State of California has bought a second lot of $400m of World Bank green bonds following a $300m investment in April 2009. Bill Lockyer, State Treasurer, said: “These bonds are a great investment for California and its taxpayers. We’re earning an excellent return, strengthening our portfolio and backing our policies with money in the fight against global warming.” Sweden’s SEB was sole lead manager for the bonds sale.

The Strathclyde Pension Fund has created a £100m New Opportunities Fund to invest in local companies. The fund, administered by Glasgow City Council, will be open to businesses based and operating in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, and take the form of loan or equity finance for suitable ventures.

Hector Sants, chief executive of the UK’s Financial Services Authority (FSA), was set today (December 7) to hold talks with 10 representatives of Occupy London on banking, regulatory reform and ethics, according to the Press Association. The event is being held by London Connection, the Bishop of London’s initiative that is headed up by former investment banker Ken Costa.
The KPMG International Corporate Responsibility Reporting Survey 2011 has been published. It’s claimed to be the largest and most comprehensive survey of Corporate Responsibility (CR) reporting trends ever published, looking at 3,400 companies worldwide. Link

The Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, the group of 54 members with combined assets of £100bn, has said “flawed” accounting standards led UK and Irish banks to overstate their solvency and directly contributed to banking losses of over £150bn. It has published a major study published a major study into the failures of UK and Irish banks during the financial crisis.The UK government has launched a consultation to improve bank bonus transparency. The proposals would extend transparency arrangements at large banks by requiring the eight highest-paid non-board executives to disclose their remuneration arrangements. It would “help provide shareholders with more tools to hold senior management to account”. The consultation closes on February 14 2012.
Two thirds of companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, assessed on behalf of the JSE by research provider EIRIS and the University of Stellenbosch Business School, fulfil the base requirements to become a constituent of the exchange’s Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Index. The exchange has released its 2011 annual SRI Index review of 109 companies. Link

The South African government is considering issuing Islamic bonds. The National Treasury has invited banks to submit proposals for government Islamic bonds (“Sukuk”) in the local and international markets. “There is a great interest in the Sukuk market and this is the first step towards meeting the growing appetite for government-backed Shariah-compliant investments” said Lungisa Fuzile, Director General of the National Treasury in a statement. The deadline for proposals is December 21. Link

Occupy Wall Street: Trillium Chief Executive Matthew Patsky was interviewed recently on Fox Business News. He said: “I’m not saying that the proposals that Occupy Wall Street have come up with are what we would support – but we do believe they have raised some very legitimate issues that are of deep concern to us at Trillium Asset Management.”

A group of almost UK pension funds, including Tesco and the BBC, have filed claims at the High Court seeking damages from asset manager Henderson over allegations it took too much risk with one of its private finance initiative funds, according to Professional Pensions. Henderson said it would “vigorously” defend itself against the claims.

Nominations are being sought by Ceres and Trillium for the fifth annual Joan Bavaria Award, which honours investor, business, and NGO leaders who are working to transform the capital markets. The winner of this year’s award will be announced at the opening reception of the 2012 Ceres Conference on April 24 2012 in Boston. Submissions will be accepted until February 13. Link