RI round-up April 18

RI’s bite-sized round-up of the week’s important responsible investment news.

A coalition of US investors and NGOs has filed resolutions at the annual general meetings of Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo, which could force them to put pressure on Chinese, Indian and Malaysia oil companies they deal with to press the Sudanese government to end atrocities in Darfur. The coalition includes Amnesty International USA, Calvert, Northstar Asset Management, Trillium Asset Management, the Vermont State Treasury and Walden Asset Management. They say that four oil companies dominate the industry in Sudan: China National Petroleum Corporation, Petronas of Malaysia, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India, and Sinopec of China. The coalition said it had dropped similar resolutions at T. Rowe Price and Merrill Lynch following positive commitments made by the companies.
Fund providers to KiwiSaver, the New Zealand work-based retirement plans who mislead investors over their commitment to responsible investment could face fines of up to $300,000 or five years in prison.
Liam Mason, general counsel of the country’s Securities Commission said the government would take a broad view on what defined responsible investment but a tough stance on any who actively misled, deceived or confused investors. A new law forcing KiwiSaver providers to disclose whether they take responsible investment into account when investing came into play on April 1.
Achim Steiner, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) executive director, has said a global recession could hurt investments in environmental companies and hinder tackling climate change. However,in an e-mail interview, he warned: “If we do not overcome the climate change challenge, the boom-and-bust cycles of the past will be nothing compared to the bust cycles of the future.”
A thematic report on extra-financial challenges associated to the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation enforced by the EU in June 2007, has been published by EthiFinance, the CSR research agency and Centre Info, the Swiss SRI research house. Download the summary: Link
Parmalat, the Italian dairy group is reportedly seeking €4.3bn in damages from London-based fund manager Hermes, over allegations that it failed to spot and act on accounting problems at the company more than a year before it was made bankrupt in late 2003, according to Italian newspaper Il Sole 24. Hermes has reportedly dismissed the claims.
A proposed set of new US standards for hedge funds have been announced by Henry Paulson, US treasury secretary. The recommendations, made by a committee of investors and fund managers cover five areas: disclosure, valuation, risk management, compliance and business conflicts.
Oxfam America has launched an initiative to promote the rights of communities impacted by oil, gas, and mining industries. It calls on international oil, gas, and mining companies to provide information including how their work affects communities environmentally, socially and economically and to outline how much extractive industries are paying governments for natural resources.

Resolutions from the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), organised by Ceres and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), have pushed Ford the US car manufacturer, to announce it will publish a carbon emissions reduction strategy emissions including cuts of 30% by 2020 in its new fleet.
The groups are expected to file similar resolutions at General Motors. Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres and director of the INCR, said: “Ford, as well as General Motors, needs to do much more and quickly, to reclaim their leadership role in the global marketplace”.
The UK Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, which represents assets of £95bn, has joined condemnation of Marks & Spencer, the UK retailer which promoted chief executive Sir Stuart Rose to the joint post of chairman, breaching the UK Combined Code on corporate governance.In a letter to the company, Councillor Ian Greenwood, chair of the forum, said: “There is a significant risk for investors that the decision to breach a key principle will send a message to the market as a whole.” LAPFF said it was considering “alternative routes” to express it concerns, without elaborating.
Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), the US proxy voting company, says shareholders at Citigroup should reject the appointment of directors including Alain Belda, Kenneth Derr, Anne Mulcahy and Richard Parsons, because of lack of oversight on compensation. Among other issues, ISS cited the estimated $40m exit package given to former CEO Charles Prince, who was ousted in November amid huge mortgage-related losses at the bank.
UBS has hired Sir David King, former head of the UK Government Office for Science, as a counsel on environmental policy.