RI ESG Briefing, March 21: How the big funds voted at Hewlett-Packard

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

Plaintiffs including the Labourers’ Pension Fund of Central and Eastern Canada and Ontario’s International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793 Pension Plan have won a C$117m (€88.5m) settlement with Ernst & Young in their class action against Sino-Forest, the collapsed China forestry firm. Law firms representing the investors said it is the largest settlement by an auditor in Canadian history “by a large margin” and one of the largest-ever auditor settlements worldwide. The rest of the litigation continues.

Suntech Power Holdings, once the world’s largest solar panel maker, says its main subsidiary in China is bankrupt. Its Wuxi subsidiary is the first major China-based solar group to declare insolvency and the largest globally.

The Energy Committee at the European Parliament has adopted a new report calling for a “more integrated system” at the European Union level for promoting renewables as well as “possible solutions that could help boost investments”. “The report gives a realistic overview about the challenges ahead for renewable energies, but also the opportunities they bring,” said committee ‘rapporteur’, German MEP Herbert Reul. Link

Social

Former US Vice President and Generation Investment Management co-founder Al Gore called on members of civil society to invest their assets in a way that moves the concept of sustainable investment into the mainstream. He was speaking at an event to mark campaign group Fair Pensions’ renaming to ShareAction.

UKSIF, the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association, says yesterday’s UK budget announcement was a missed opportunity to focus on the long-term investment agenda and support measures raised by the Kay Review into market short-termism. “A clear public policy framework would encourage asset owners, asset managers and company directors to take the necessary steps to build a positive culture of long-termism along the investment chain,” UKSIF said.h6. Governance

PGGM, the Dutch pension investment giant, voted for a proposal tabled by faith investors asking Hewlett-Packard to amend its human rights policies, saying it would enhance its commitment “to recognize and integrate” human rights in its operations. The proposal was submitted by the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church and others at HP’s AGM yesterday. PGGM also voted against chairman Raymond Lane and director John Hammergren – and the computer giant’s executive pay. At the AGM, Lane won less than 59% support. Other investors voting against Lane included the AFSCME Employees Pension Plan, Christian Brothers Investment Services, and the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. CalPERS withheld its vote while fellow California fund CalSTRS and the Florida State Board of Administration voted for Lane. CalPERS, CalSTRS and the Florida SBA all voted against the human rights motion.

Lead plaintiffs the Lothian Pension Fund and the New England Carpenters Guaranteed Annuity Funds have reportedly won class certification of their case against French drugs firm Sanofi-Aventis. The case relates to claims the anti-obesity drug Zimulti was linked to severe psychiatric problems.

John Harrington’s shareholder proposal calling for coffee chain Starbucks to be prohibited from making political contributions or forming a political action committee was defeated at the company’s annual general meeting, although voting tallies aren’t yet available. The motion was introduced at the AGM by a representative of Corporate Accountability International, according to a Reuters report. Harrington is CEO at socially responsible investing firm Harrington Investments.

The chairman of Standard Chartered, John Peace, has apologised for making “legally and factually incorrect” remarks about the bank breaching US sanctions over Iran – which resulted in a $667m settlement last year. Peace retracted comments made earlier this month that the bank “had no willful act to avoid sanctions”.