RI ESG Briefing, Feb. 12: Australian super fund backs TIAA-CREF wind venture

The round-up of ESG news


AMP Capital, the fund firm with over A$126.9bn (€97.3bn) under management, is to invest US$100m in US wind firm Capistrano Wind Partners “on behalf of a large Australian superannuation fund client”. Capistrano was formed last year by Edison Mission Energy, pensions provider TIAACREF and Cook Inlet Region Inc. (CIRI) to develop large wind projects across North America. It currently owns five operating projects in Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming with a total of 413MW of capacity. Link

The £4.6bn (€5.3bn) Lancashire County Pension Fund has invested £12m in a community owned solar power plant in the southern English county of Oxfordshire, according to a report on IPE.com. The 23.5-year bond will provide long-term finance and guarantee the fund a return 3 percentage points above inflation.

The Universities Superannuation Scheme has provided £95m of 20-year, inflation-linked financing to UK water utility Affinity Water Programme Finance via the private placement of an index linked note. The financing was arranged by USS Investment Management Limited, which will manage the investment on USS’s behalf. Link


The Thirty Percent Coalition, the US group seeking greater female representation in corporate boardrooms, has written to the 127 companies within the Russell 1000 Index that do not have any women on their boards of directors. The group includes a large number of institutional investors with more than $1.2trn in assets under management.

The University of Vermont in the US says it has adopted a new process for socially responsible investing. The Socially Responsible Investing Work Group, which reported to the Investment Subcommittee of the board, has been dissolved and replaced by a Socially Responsible Investing Advisory Council, reporting to Vice President for Finance and Administration Richard Cate. More details, and an interview with University Controller Claire Burlingham, are available here. Governance

New analysis from the New York-based not-for-profit organisation the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC) Institute indicates that environmental and social shareholder proposals are gaining increased voting support from investors at US public companies. The study – Key Characteristics of Prominent Shareholder-sponsored Proposals on Environmental and Social Topics, 2005-2011 – was released in collaboration with Ernst & Young.

US institutional investors have filed shareholder resolutions at more than 50 corporations as part of a 2013 proxy season initiative asking companies to annually report their federal and state lobbying. It includes payments to trade associations used for lobbying as well as support for tax-exempt organizations that write and endorse model legislation. Announcement

Dutch €281bn civil service pension fund giant Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP says it has reached agreement with Deutsche Bank to settle claims regarding residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) that it purchased from Deutsche affiliates in 2006/7. ABP said: “This settlement resolves all litigation between ABP and Deutsche regarding RMBS investments.” The fund had alleged in a lawsuit filed in September 2011 with the New York Supreme Court that it had purchased certain RMBS in reliance on false and misleading statements and that these securities were far riskier than had been represented, backed by mortgage loans worth significantly less than had been represented.

The Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility has launched its latest research: the State of Corporate Social Responsibility in Australia and New Zealand Annual Review 2012/2013. It’s the longest ongoing survey into Australian corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices and has this year been broadened to cover New Zealand.

South Africa’s King Committee on Corporate Governance has issued two practice notes to companies, in an initiative spearheaded by the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa (IoDSA) in collaboration with the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The first covers listing requirements while the second addresses the corporate governance requirement for directors to retire by rotation. It follows several recent requests for clarity over the exchange’s approach to corporate governance. Link