Generation Investment Management, the SRI fund manager set up by Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore and ex-Goldman Sach’s Asset Management chief, David Blood, has signed a deal to distribute its funds in Switzerland through Swiss fund manager Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch. The Swiss fund manager is expected to announce a number of its own sales tie-ups with international fund managers in the coming months for its SRI funds.
Generation recently announced a tie-up with Kleiner Perkins, the US venture capital firm to fund technology start-ups technology that address global climate change.
US investors could sue the US Securities and Exchange Commission if it tries to push through controversial rules on proxy access this week. Investors say the SEC’s action could undermine their right to representation on the board of companies they invest in. A group of major US and European pension funds has appealed to the SEC to delay action on its proxy access proposals. Jack Ehnes, chief executive of the $176bn California State Teachers’ Retirement System, Sacramento, said: “We are urging Chairman (Christopher) Cox not to move forward. We are asking the commission to stop and listen to the world’s shareholders.” The main proposal being discussed by the SEC would allow companies to reject proxy votes from shareholders if they are seeking to nominate independent candidates to the board. The regulator has suggested that shareholders only be allowed to nominate board members if theyhold at least five percent of the company’s shares for a year. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has indicated it could take legal action if the SEC does not postpone its decision.
Hermes, the UK activist fund manager owned by the £36bn BT Pension scheme, will hear this week what plans its owners have for the business. Speculation is mounting that Hermes could be split into individual boutique fund managers to better incentivise staff. The BT trustees will discuss a five-year plan for Hermes at a meeting of trustees on Nov 29 following an operations review, carried out by Bain and Co, the management consultancy. The fund manager is also expected to announce shortly the appointment of a new chief executive to replace Mark Anson, who left earlier this year to return to the US and joined Chicago-based Nuveen Investments as president.
The £3.2bn UK Merchant Navy Officers’ Pension Fund has appointed PIRC, the UK proxy voting company, to provide global shareholder voting recommendations and execution on its entire overseas equity portfolio which will involve coverage of companies in over 20 markets. PIRC will also execute voting rights for the fund.
Shareholders of UK companies regularly raise concerns about levels of executive pay at annual general meetings, while in Europe pay is less of an issue, according to Manifest, the UK voting advisory agency. Average voting turnout, at 54.8%, is also higher in the UK than in Europe where 52.3% of shareholder votes are
cast. The findings are revealed in Manifest’s second pan-European survey of shareholder voting trends, copies of which are available from the company.
The clean energy sector has been hit by the cancellation of at least five initial public offerings (IPOs) and one secondary share issue in recent weeks, reports New Energy Finance. US, fuel cell technology firm NanoDynamics cancelled a flotation expected to raise over $100m, while Amsterdam based research house Avantium pulled the plug on an IPO targeting $29-$43m of new money. In London. Russian Timber Group, a forestry firm postponed a hoped for £125m flotation on the Alternative Investment Market as did New Russian Generation, which owns a portfolio of energy generation companies, shelved plans to raise $480m-$590m.
Executives in the 100 biggest Swiss companies were awarded average pay rises of 15.8% taking salaries to an average €1.4m each in the year 2005-2006 without any link to better company performance, according to Ethos, the Swiss SRI fund manager. Ethos called on shareholders in Swiss companies to tighten the link between remuneration and performance and align management interests with their own. Ethos said just 25 of the top 100 Swiss companies fully disclosed remuneration elements such as salary, bonus, share and options programmes and pension contributions.
Some pharmaceutical companies still have poor strategies for providing access to medicines that could combat deadly diseases in developing countries, according to a report by F&C Investments. The fund manager says pharma companies could come under firefrom NGO’s as a result, as Novartis did earlier this year over the availability in India of Glivec, its groundbreaking cancer drug.
Post-Glivec, F&C has issued a report called Access to Medicines: Back on the Agenda, which says that good ‘access to medicines’ strategies do not necessarily mean waiving the patent or giving drugs away for free. It has identified nine separate approaches a company could take.
Environmental issues top the list of concerns of retail ethical investors, according to a poll by Standard Life Investments. Clearing tropical forests and using high volumes of timber were the two biggest concerns while operating in countries with a poor human rights record was third. Over 90% said they would prefer to invest in companies that are reducing their climate change impacts. Julie McDowell, head of
SRI at Standard Life Investments, said: “Interestingly, the three top issues of concern this year are negative criteria – suggesting that it is more important for ethical investors to avoid investing in companies whose activities they disapprove of, than to favour investment in companies whose activities are viewed positively.”
Henderson Global Investors has appointed Seb Beloe as head of SRI research, reporting to George Latham, head of SRI funds. Beloe joins from SustainAbility UK where he was vice president, research and advocacy. Henderson ‘s SRI team currently manages over £1bn in retail and institutional funds.
The UN-backed Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is bringing together companies in different industry sectors in order to produce meaningful comparisons
of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports. Its first group, the Food Processing Sector Supplement working group, which includes Nestlé (Switzerland), Bunge (Brazil); Danisco (Denmark), Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (USA) and Tyson Foods (USA) will work to ensure sure that CSR reports effectively cover the key issues for the sector and are comparable. The GRI is also seeking working group members from the investment community, trades unions and civil society. For further info click here
California’s attorney general and the Los Angeles city attorney have filed a lawsuit against 20 companies accusing them of manufacturing or selling toys with unlawfully high levels of lead, reports Reuters. The lawsuit, which names US toy companies including Mattel and retailers, including Toys “R” Us and Wal-Mart, says the companies knowingly exposed children and parents to lead and did not provide sufficient warning about its risks. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled millions of toys this year because they contained excessive amounts of lead. Others have been recalled because they contained other toxic substances and small parts that could be swallowed.
Sentinel Investments, the US mutual fund company is buying $800m in socially responsible mutual fund assets from Citizens Advisers in a deal to be finalised during the first quarter of 2008. Sentinel is also launching its first SRI funds: the large-cap Sentinel Responsible Investing Core Opportunities fund and the midcap growth equity focused Sentinel Responsible Investing Emerging Companies fund.
The SEK1.3bn (€140m) Swedish Premium Pension Authority (PPM) has reportedly appointed State Street to a socially-responsible investment (SRI) mandate. DanielBarr, head economist at PPM told IPE.com that the SRI fund would operate a negative screen excluding companies that violate international conventions signed by Sweden. Barr said: “We think that the same ethical standards that the Swedish government and parliament have decided on should also be applicable in this product.”
Firsthand Capital Management, the Californian mutual fund house, will donate a percentage of the advisory fees generated by a new cleantech fund to non-profit environmental organisations including the World Resources Institute and the National Wildlife Federation. The donation will equal 0.2 percent of the fund’s average daily net assets. Firsthand manages about $800m for a mix of institutional and retail investors.
War on Want, the UK-based NGO, says British mining companies are enriching themselves at the expense of human rights violations in developing countries. The NGO alleges that human rights violations have occurred at companies including Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Oxus Gold where security forces protecting mining operations have attacked local communities and mining activists at mines in countries including Indonesia, Colombia, and the Philippines. War on Want said the mining companies had yet to respond to its report.
Switzerland’s Bank Sarasin has launched the Sarasin European Solar Power index on the back of an in-house report claiming that solar energy could save approximately three gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2030. In the report: “Solar Energy 2007 – The industry continues to boom”, Sarasin forecasts annual growth rates of 50% for the photovoltaic sector for the rest of the decade. It said solar power would be cheaper than conventional energy in 10 years time.