RI ESG Briefing, Jan. 19: Trillium seeks support for food waste proposal at Whole Foods

The round-up of the latest environmental, social and governance news


Private equity firm Headway Investment Partners has upped its offer for Ludgate Environmental Fund. In December, the firm offered 16 pence per share to shareholders in Ludgate, which has seen its value plummet in recent years. Investors including Henderson confirmed that they would sell their shares at 16 pence. Others, including South Yorkshire Pension Authority and Clwyd Pension Fund said they would retain their equity. Headway has now increased the offer to 16.3 pence per share. Ludgate’s unaudited net asset value was 21.7 pence per share at December 31.

Troubled US-based solar module manufacturer Ascent Solar Technologies has secured a $250,000 loan from Global Ichiban Ltd at a rate of 12%. The unsecured loan has a maturity of just six months. No details were provided as to the use of proceeds for the capital. Ascent, which manufactures solar modules out of a factory in Colorado, has seen its share price plunge more than 99.9% over the past year alone, and has faced criticism for its heavy debt load and share dilution. On Friday, its shares slumped more than 35% following analysis claiming the firm carries too much short interest. Singapore-based Global Ichiban is an existing shareholder in the company.

Donald Trump’s appointment of Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil CEO, as Secretary of State is a “masterstroke” according to Aberdeen Asset Management CEO Martin Gilbert. Speaking to the BBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Gilbert explained he is going to Trump’s inauguration, adding of the incoming President: “I know him through business, he’s a pretty pragmatic guy. I’m not sure I’d like to be on the other side of a deal with him but he’s good, I think he’ll do well and his choice of Secretary of State, I think, is a masterstroke.”


Campaign group Greenpeace has reportedly challenged HSBC on financing for palm oil companies. The Financial Times said a new report from the environmental group said the bank had extended financial support to companies “associated with the most unsustainable aspects of palm oil development”. But the FT quoted Brendan McNamara, head of global NGO engagement at HSBC, as saying the bank “does not knowingly provide financial services which directly support palm oil companies” which don’t comply with its policy.

Irish Life, Ireland’s biggest pension provider, is reportedly willing to put some of its €30bn in assets under management into new social housing projects in the country. The Irish Independent said the government has signalled its intention to approach pension funds in its “action plan” for housing and homelessness and the paper quoted Irish Life CEO David Harney as saying the group would be interested in both public and private projects given the right investment structure.h6. Governance

SRI firm Trillium Asset Management has written to fellow shareholders in food group Whole Foods Market calling for support for a shareholder proposal on food waste reporting filed by Trillium along with First Affirmative Financial Network, Green Century Capital Management, Trinity Health, and the Dominican Sisters of Houston. “In a nutshell, it provides an understanding of the Company’s efforts to best position itself from financial, reputational, environmental, and social perspectives,” says Trillium Shareholder Advocate Allan Pearce. Whole Foods holds its AGM on February 17. There is also a shareholder proposal from individual investor and governance advocate James McRitchie calling for the company to amend its proxy access process.

Proxy firm Glass Lewis and QUICK, the Japan-based data provider, have partnered to deliver global proxy research and voting to Daiwa Asset Management. QUICK has started delivering Glass Lewis’s proxy voting platform, Viewpoint, to Daiwa AM. Daiwa said: “As an investment firm, we exercise all of our proxy voting rights in order to execute our fiduciary duty. For foreign shares, we have decided to newly introduce Glass Lewis’ Viewpoint into our proxy voting procedures.” Daiwa will exercise proxy voting rights in accordance with a customized policy based.

Saxena White, the certified minority and female owned US securities litigation firm, has reportedly been selected to lead a shareholder derivative class action against banking giant Wells Fargo & Co. alongside Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein. The suits relate to last year’s scam accounts scandal and U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar of the Northern District of California has ruled the firms were best positioned to lead the litigation against the Wells Fargo board, according to the Daily Business Review. Lieff Cabraser and Saxena White respectively represent the Fire and Police Pension Association of Colorado and the City of Birmingham Retirement and Relief System.

Custody and asset management giant State Street has agreed to pay more than $64m (€60.4m) to resolve US investigations into whether it overcharged clients for transition management services in 2010 and 2011 in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It has reached a $32.3m settlement with the US Justice Department and the US Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts and offered another $32.3m to resolve a separate Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. State Street said it “deeply regrets” the matter and accepts responsibility for the actions of former staff. It reimbursed the six clients that were affected, fired the people responsible and appointed new management. Announcement

The US Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase, alleging that the Wall Street giant “systematically discriminated against female employees” in certain professional positions by compensating them less than their male counterparts. A bank spokesperson was quoted by Benzinga as saying the company is “committed to diversity in the workplace”. The bank, it said tried to work with, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) and that it looked forward to presenting its evidence to a “neutral decision maker”.