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RI ESG Briefing, May 17: CalPERS seeks support at Nabors AGM

The round-up of environmental. social and governance news

Environmental

The need for climate-resilience is becoming a “source of innovation and business opportunity” for insurers, says former Swiss Re Chief Executive John Coomber, who chairs the insurance industry group ClimateWise. His remarks appear in the first in a series of thought leadership articles to be published throughout 2012. Link

Transmission Capital Partners has been selected by Ofgem, the UK energy regulator, as the preferred bidder to own and operate the £282m high voltage transmission link to the 250 MW Lincolnshire offshore wind farm. Reserve bidder is the National Grid Offshore Consortium, which includes Britel Fund Trustees and the Universities Superannuation Scheme. Announcement

The Nordic Investment Bank and India’s Axis Bank Limited have agreed on a joint US$50m loan for seven wind turbine parks in India. The project is being implemented by the special-purpose company, Beta Wind Farm. HSBC is acting as financial adviser.

Arise Windpower has announced its intention to issue a senior unsecured bond of SEK350m and list it on the NASDAQ OMX Stockholm exchange. The prospectus for the bonds has been approved by the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority. Link

Social

Oxfam America has filed a lawsuit against the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for “unlawfully delaying” a final rule implementing part of the Dodd-Frank Act that requires the disclosure of extractives companies’ payments to governments. The SEC’s delay “frustrates Congress’s intent to increase transparency in resource-rich countries” Oxfam senior policy manager Ian Gary said. “For those living in poverty in resource-rich countries, there’s no time left to wait.” Announcement

The Church Commissioners, the body responsible for £5.2bn (€6.5bn) of UK church investments, has said that its ethical exclusions were a “notable drag” on equities performance in 2011, as banned sectors outperformed the overall market. “Our ethical exclusions were a notable drag on the performance of the global portfolio, at an estimated 1.0%, as banned sectors and stocks outperformed the general market,” the body said in its new annual report.

Twenty-nine companies will be added to MSCI’s ACWI [All Country World Index] Islamic Index. The three largest additions are US technology firm Applied Materials, Swedish security products group Assa Abloy and Finnish elevator maker Kone. There will also be 52 deletions. Link. Governance

CalPERS, the largest US public pension fund, has written to fellow shareholders in drilling contractor Nabors Industries calling on them to support its non-binding proposal on severance benefits tabled for the company’s June 5 annual meeting. The proposal seeks to limit what CalPERS calls “egregious severance agreements” at the firm.

CalPERS has also written to shareholders calling on support for its proposals on majority voting for directors at New York Community Bancorp (June 7) and on eliminating supermajority voting at Chesapeake Energy (June 8).

Six major US pension funds have called for the resignation of Bruce Gans from the board of real estate firm Hospitality Properties Trust, in a letter to the company. He was reappointed despite just gaining 42% support at HPT’s annual meeting earlier this month. “We believe the board’s reasoning is flawed,” the funds said in a letter to fellow shareholders. The investors include CalPERS, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the Florida State Board of Administration, North Carolina Retirement Systems, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and the Public Employees’ Retirement Association of Colorado.

US sustainable fund firms Walden Asset Management and Calvert Investment Management have issued a rebuttal to car parts firm’s Gentex opposition to their call for the company to issue a sustainability report. They had filed a proposal for the company’s annual meeting which takes place today (May 17) to address the “inadequacy” of Gentex’s disclosure of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues; the company said it was not in the best interests of the company or its shareholders.

Banking giant J.P. Morgan Chase is facing two shareholder lawsuits filed in the wake of its $2bn trading losses, according to the Wall Street Journal. The suits have been filed by the Saratoga Advantage Trust, which is run by Saratoga Capital Management and private investor James Baker. Link