RI ESG Briefing, April 2: Shareholders’ News Corp. phone hacking lawsuit dismissed

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


The European Investment Bank (EIB) is to invest €750m over the next two years as half of a planned €1.5bn financing for green infrastructure projects in France under the programme title of ‘France Energies Renouvelables’. The projects will be run in partnership with three French banks, Société Générale’s Corporate & Investment Banking unit, Crédit Agricole, and BPCE, owner of Natixis. The three will look after the additional co-financing from other public or private bodies for the remaining capital, leveraging the EIB’s AAA rated credit rating for the fund raising, as well as the choice of investment and its subsequent development. The EIB said the infrastructure projects would be a mix of wind, photovoltaic, hydro and geothermal developments with a value of less than €50m each. The banks will also verify the environmental criteria for the projects.

Canada’s TD Bank Group has floated a C$500m (€329m) three-year bond that, it says, will be dedicated to funding “green initiatives.” Examples of such initiatives were not detailed in a statement by the bank. Toronto-based TD also did not indicate which investors subscribed to the bond issue, which was done internally.

Renewable investment company Low Carbon has commissioned its seventh solar park so far in 2014 – the 21MW Lackford facility in eastern England. It takes the total commissioned parks this year to seven, capable of generating 73MW. The solar parks unveiled include the first investments to be announced under an agreement with Macquarie Capital which, over the next two years, will see up to 300MW of capacity commissioned in the UK.


Social Ventures Australia (SVA), the non-profit organisation established in 2002, has called for new ways to promote social investment in the country. It said: “We believe a new social capital market needs to thrive alongside traditional financial markets and we are keen to develop a new asset class of social impact investment.” There are six main areas and opportunities for reform (access to capital, a social investment bank, tax concessions/incentives, a corporate bond market, financial intermediaries, structural barriers and regulatory requirements).

Nest Sammelstiftung, the CHF1.55bn (€1.3bn) sustainable Swiss pension fund, has reported a return of 6.26% for 2013 – just under 2012’s 6.4%. Nest slightly raised its exposure to equities in 2013 (29% of assets), while slightly lowering it to bonds (30%) and real estate (25%). The remainder of Nest’s portfolio is in alternatives (6%) and cash (10%). Nest is a co-founder of Inrate, the Zurich-based environmental, social and governance (ESG) researcher.h6. Governance

Shareholders led by the UK’s £3.13bn (€3.9bn) Avon Pension Fund have had their US lawsuit against News Corp and its founder Rupert Murdoch over the phone hacking affair dismissed, according to reports. Reuters reported that US District Judge Paul Gardephe in Manhattan said the defendants weren’t liable for statements that predated the class period covering alleged losses. The judge gave the plaintiffs until April 30 to file an amended complaint.

The Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), the ESG measure for real estate, has launched its 2014 Survey. Last year saw the participation of 550 property companies and funds, managing $1.6trn; the GRESB database covers 49,000 assets in 46 countries and is actively used by more than 100 institutional investors.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has announced that grocery chain Safeway has agreed to give preference to suppliers of 100% verified sustainable palm oil and set a goal of using only sustainable palm oil in all of its Safeway-brand products. As a result, the New York State Common Retirement Fund has withdrawn a shareholder proposal on the issue at the company where it has a stake worth $63.6m.

The International Integrated Reporting Council, the body which promotes combined sustainability and financial reporting, and the Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings (GISR), the ESG ratings standards initiative, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, signalling collaboration between the organizations in promoting corporate reporting and ratings frameworks. It is the latest in a series of agreements between ESG disclosure bodies.

Eleven US investors, including the city of Philadelphia, the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System and the Auerus Currency Fund, have joined a lawsuit filed last November by a Massachusetts pension fund that seeks compensation from major international banks for allegedly manipulating foreign exchange rates. In the class-action lawsuit, the investors allege that traders colluded in private online chats. The banks being sued include Barclays, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan, the Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS.

The c$1.5bn Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Retirement Fund (MBTARF) has reportedly joined three other US pension funds in a lawsuit alleging that hedge fund Fletcher Asset Management and founder Alphonse Fletcher defrauded it of more than $50m. The Boston-based fund accuses Fletcher of inflating asset values and management fees.