RI ESG Briefing, October 23: New York Green Bank announces $800m of deals

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced the first transactions of the new NY Green Bank, totalling more than $800m. The parties to the seven transactions Ameresco, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BQ Energy, Citi, Deutsche Bank, First Eastern Investment Group, First Niagara Bank, GreenCity Power, M&T Bank, Renewable Funding, Sustainable Development Capital and Tulum Management. Terms are still being finalized and NY Green Bank is working to close the transactions by year-end. The bank, headed by former Citigroup executive Alfred Griffin, is part of the New York State Clean Energy Fund. Announcement

The Yale Responsible Investing Group and the International Center for Finance at the Yale School of Management are to present an inaugural national ‘Low Carbon Case Competition’ with a $10,000 first prize, on November 14. Finance students from across the US are invited to “figure out innovative ways to move the field forward”. Led by Bob Litterman, former head of Risk Management for Goldman Sachs, a panel of judges will evaluate teams. Peter Knight, the President of Generation Investment Management, the sustainability boutique co-founded by Al Gore and David Blood, will also address the role of institutional investors in solving a significant global challenge. Link

Walden Asset Management, the Boston-based SRI specialist, says it recently asked Trucost and MSCI ESG Research to evaluate the carbon footprint and ESG profile, respectively, of a representative Walden Core Equity portfolio. While recognizing the “significant limitations” of such verification, Walden says they provide a helpful perspective as to how portfolios compare to their primary benchmark, the S&P 500. Trucost found the core equity portfolio was 51% less carbon intensive than the benchmark (using a $36/ton carbon price). The news comes in Walden’s latest Research & Engagement Brief.


Signatories to the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) are being invited to comment on investors’ role in formulating the United Nations’ new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will replace the Millennium Development Goals. The PRI says investors such as Storebrand, Local Government Super, the Environment Agency Pension Fund and PGGM are already making investments that contribute to meeting the SDGs. Link

The US SIF Foundation has published a new 12-page guide for investors seeking to help women achieve parity with men on a number of socioeconomic measures, ranging from access to capital to representation on boards of directors of major corporations. Investing to Advance Women highlights practical strategies that investors can use to increase economic opportunities for women in the US and around the world; it is written for both institutional and retail investors. “This guide is intended to help make investors more aware of their ability to help advance opportunities for women through a range of financial products and through shareowner engagement,” said US SIF Foundation CEO Lisa Woll.h6. Governance

Christian Brothers Investment Services, the US faith investment group with more than $5bn under management, has put together a seven-step guide to help companies combat human trafficking. “We believe companies that address human trafficking issues head-on are helping to reduce human suffering, and in turn, are helping to protect long-term shareholder value by managing risk,” CBIS says. The report is available here.

Consulting firm Towers Watson has launched a global not-for-profit institute, with the aim of “influencing change in the investment world to improve the provision of savings”. The Thinking Ahead Institute, which is a development of its Thinking Ahead Group (TAG) set up by Roger Urwin and Tim Hodgson in 2002, already has 19 members from Australia, France, South Africa, the UK and US, with total assets of $5.6trn. One of TAG’s topics has been to assist in the design long-term mandates.

‘Proxy access’ – where shareholders can place their nominees for director on a company’s annual meeting agenda – could ultimately benefit both the markets and corporate boardrooms, according to new research. “On the basis of these findings, we conclude that proxy access would serve as a useful tool for shareowners in the US and would ultimately benefit both the markets and corporate boardrooms, with little cost or disruption to companies and the markets as a whole,” writes Matt Orsagh, director at CFA Institute. He urges the SEC to revisit the issue and to “consider all available data in order to conduct the most meaningful cost–benefit analysis possible in assessing whether the proxy access rule benefits shareowners and the market”.

ProxyMonitor.org’s latest review of US shareholder proposals has been published. It found that in 2014, just 4% of shareholder proposals were supported by a majority of voting shareholders, down from 7% in 2013. ProxyMonitor.org is sponsored by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, the conservative think tank that is chaired by hedge fund executive Paul Singer of Elliott Management Corporation.

The Securities and Exchange Commission says that in fiscal year 2014, it filed a record 755 enforcement actions covering a wide range of misconduct, and obtained orders totalling $4.16bn in disgorgement and penalties, according to preliminary figures. Last year the SEC filed 686 enforcement actions and obtained orders totalling $3.4 billion in disgorgement and penalties. “The innovative use of technology – enhanced use of data and quantitative analysis – was instrumental in detecting misconduct,” said SEC Chair Mary Jo White.

Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann, the US securities class action law firm, has filed suit against EZCORP, the Nasdaq-listed pawnshop operator. The complaint – on behalf of the Automotive Machinists Pension Plan – alleges that the firm violated provisions of the Exchange Act. The deadline for filing a motion for appointment as lead plaintiff was October 21.