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Faith-based investors applauded the decision by PNC Financial Services to stop financing coal company mountaintop removal operations in Appalachia.
The recent announcement by the Pittsburgh-based bank comes after a multi-year effort by members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) to convince bank officials that financing such environmentally damaging operations poses significant financial risks and hastens climate change.
Mountaintop removal mining involves dynamiting the tops of mountains to expose rich coal seams hundreds of feet below ground. The resulting debris is then pushed into adjacent valleys, often blocking important headwater streams.
Lauren Compere, managing director of Boston Common Asset Management, an ICCR partner which led the PNC effort, said conversations with bank officials took place over a four-year period and focused on the role banks can play in transitioning to a low-carbon economy. “When looking at our portfolio, coal mining is one of the red flags. One of the things we talk about with companies more generally is how are we supporting the transition to more sustainable energy sources,” explained Compere, a member of ICCR’s board of directors.
The ICCR effort has focused on the importance of managing risk because financing the coal industry is seen as risky, explained Oblate Father Seamus Finn, Chief of Faith Consistent Investing for the OIP Investment Trust, and ICCR Board Chair, who has been actively engaged with major banks on a variety of issues.
ICCR’s engagement on mountaintop removal mining is part of a broader effort by 80 international institutional investors managing $540 billion in assets to urge 63 banks to disclose their policies and practices related to climate change.
J.P. Morgan Chase Issues How we do Business Report in Response to Faith-based Shareholders December 19th, 2014
Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility welcomed today’s release of JP Morgan Chase’s (JPMC) How we do Business Report. The report was, in large part, issued in response to shareholder pressure as a result of the billions of dollars in fines and penalties the company has faced over the past several years.
The report was largely brought about by shareholders pressing for structural changes as a result of the multiple ethical lapses which resulted in billions of dollars in fines and penalties.
Rev. Séamus Finn, of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Board Chair of ICCR, said, “We welcome the report and look forward to the opportunity to review it in greater detail. The report appropriately acknowledges the lapses in ethical conduct that resulted in significant damage to the company’s reputation and details steps taken to reduce the possibility of such lapses in the future. That their actions have broader, societal repercussions beyond the scope of the company seems also to have been recognized. We are hopeful that management sees the value in this type of self-examination as a bridge to begin to restore trust and confidence between Main Street and Wall Street.”
ICCR Shareholders Confront Banks Over Recent Scandals December 20th, 2013
The efforts of the Missionary Oblates and other ICCR faith-based shareholders to call the major banks to account in the wake of a flood of legal scandals and regulatory investigations, has won the attention of the media.
An article in the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, highlights the shareholder proposals filed by religious shareholder groups with J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. JPM , Bank of America Corp. BAC and Wells Fargo & Co. WFC asking for a report on “business standards”. The proposal says, “We believe shareholders deserve a full report on what the bank has done to end these unethical activities, to rebuild credibility and provide new strong, effective checks and balances within the bank,” the shareholders write in the Wells Fargo proposal, with similar language for the other two banks. “While press releases describe specific settlements or new reforms, the overall picture has not been reported adequately to shareholders.”
Father Seamus Finn, a board member of ICCR, and a shareholder lead with several of the banks, called the requests “a win-win” for the banks and shareholders, giving them an opportunity to showcase how they’re addressing “the many issues of the day.”
Top US Banks Disappoint in Investor Study November 22nd, 2013
Five years after the crisis that rocked the financial world, seven leading U.S. banks scored a disappointing 60 or fewer out of 100 possible points in a benchmarking study released today by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), which represents 300 faith-based and socially responsible institutional investors with $100 billion in assets under management. The top banks were evaluated in terms of four key shareholder concerns: executive compensation, risk management, responsible lending and investing, and political contributions.
The financial institutions included in the ICCR report are: Goldman Sachs (60, which scored highest on responsible lending and investment and tied for highest on political contribution practices); Bank of New York (59.02, which scored highest on risk management and tied for highest on political contribution practices); JP Morgan Chase (56.5, which tied for highest on political contribution practices); Morgan Stanley (55.40); Bank of America (55.35); Citi (54.90, which tied for highest on political contribution practices): and Wells Fargo (50.73, which scored highest on executive compensation practices.).
Rev. Séamus Finn, director, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation for the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and ICCR board vice chair, said: “Five years after the U.S. financial meltdown, some of the banks are beginning to address their risk management protocols, but have much more work to do when it comes to responsible lending and investment. Overall disclosures are also weak, particularly related to both executive compensation and political contributions. What we see in these findings is a somewhat timid group of banks clustered in the average-to-below-average range with no single institution distinguishing itself as a leader for shareholders in the post-financial crisis era.”
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Mea Minima Culpa October 2nd, 2013
Rev. Seamus P. Finn, OMI has written a new blog on Huffington Post, called Mea Minima Culpa.
“There is more than a little irony in the long list of stories about the major CEOs of banks negotiating settlements with government regulators and agreeing to fines before going to court to settle…” Read more….
For Nuns and Analysts Alike, Bank Commodity Earnings are a Mystery August 11th, 2013
The Oblates are concerned about the lack of disclosure by banks of their commodities market activities. Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI dialogs on behalf of the Oblates with major financial institutions like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase. He was quoted extensively in a Chicago Tribune article that does a good job of describing the issue. (Read the article)
“Driven by a determination to invest in a socially conscious way, Finn’s group has been concerned about banks’ commodities activities since 2008, when a spike in energy and agricultural products caused food riots in Africa. The issue is whether banks’ trading activities artificially drive up food prices. … While the country’s largest banks are required to disclose their activities in some consumer-facing businesses such as mortgages, there is no similar requirement for them to do so on the commodities side.”