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Faith-Based Investors Get Better Governance at JP Morgan Chase December 17th, 2014
The prestigious journal, American Banker, has reported on the success earned by faith-based groups, including the Missionary Oblates, in forcing J.P. Morgan Chase to improve its governance and increase transparency. An article published today reports that before the end of the year, “JPMorgan Chase will release a 100-page report in which it will provide a full accounting of recent legal settlements and matters under investigation and detail, among other things, clawback policies for executives whose business units engage in “unethical” activity. The New York bank will also describe in the report new structures for board accountability and oversight.”
The article adds that “The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility [ICCR] says the report will go a long way toward restoring the bank’s credibility with shareholders following a string of legal skirmishes, including a $13 billion settlement with U.S regulators over the packaging and sale of shoddy mortgages, a $1 billion fine for manipulating the foreign exchange market, and a $920 million fine it paid to authorities for its failure to spot risky trades. As a condition of the report’s release, the faith-based group has agreed to back off from its campaign to split the chairman and CEO jobs.”
The Rev. Seamus Finn, OMI, ICCR Board Chair, was quoted as saying,”We asked [J.P. Morgan Chase] to address all of the issues under which their reputation had been tarnished since the financial crisis, and I think they’ve done a good job.” He added that “It doesn’t mean there won’t be another ‘London whale’ or foreign-exchange trading scandal. But they are putting in place some strong restrictions to make sure these things don’t happen again.”
A new report from 3iG (International Interfaith Investment Group) makes the case that if negative screening is all that faith-based investment portfolios do, they are missing a major opportunity. Read the full report on ISSU.
Faith-based and Socially Responsible Shareholders Call on Google to Pay Fair Share of Taxes April 8th, 2014
The Missionary Oblates co-filed with ethical investor Domini Social Equity fund, in a shareholder resolution calling on the multinational firm Google to pay its fair share of US taxes. NEI Investments LP, Robert Burnett, and Investor Voice, SPC joined as co-filers. Google recommended a vote against the shareholder proposal, which argues that “Google’s tax practices have come under scrutiny in the United Kingdom and France, leading to regulatory pressures and reputational damage.” The shareholder proposal cited as one of its arguments for the proposal, a Bloomberg article headed “Google cuts billions off its tax bill each year by sending profits through Ireland to a mailbox in Bermuda.”
The proposal stated, “Although most Google engineers are US-based, where much of product development takes place, Google’s intellectual property is held in Bermuda, which does not levy corporate taxes.” It went on to state: ‘Tax haven’ jurisdictions are characterized by low tax rates, financial secrecy and light regulation. Tax havens facilitate financial opacity and illegal activities including tax evasion and money laundering.”
The proposal has received coverage in The Sunday Times in London and the Independent.ie an Irish news source. Although it is not expected to pass, the proposal will once again attract attention to Google’s low tax outlay against multibillion revenues.
Financial Transparency Coalition Meets in Africa on Problem of Illicit Financial Flows September 30th, 2013
The new Financial Transparency Coalition is meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on October 1-2. The theme for the conference, is “Towards Transparency: Making the Global Financial System Work for Development.” Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI, US JPIC Office Director, is officially representing ICCR (Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility) at the conference.
Nearly a trillion dollars a year has been secreted out of developing countries, robbing them of revenue needed desperately for development. The coalition was formed to do something about this problem that is central to the development of poor countries. According to the Coalition, half of the illicit financial flows – a staggering $500 billion – is coming from Africa. Flowing from crime, corruption, and tax evasion, these illicit transfers represent a drain on developing economies that is equivalent to eight times the size of global foreign aid.
The US JPIC Office is involved in several inter-connected organizations in Washington, DC, working for greater financial justice and transparency. These include the Tax Justice Network USA, (where Fr. Finn serves on the Board), and the FACT coalition (Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency Campaign). The international Financial Transparency Coalition was launched in May of 2013, in response to the growing awareness and activism around the problem of illicit financial flows.
Dupont, eBay Asked to Report on Lobbying Expenditures and Activities April 25th, 2013
ICCR shareholders, led by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, filed shareholder proposals at DuPont and eBay, asking that they report on their comprehensive lobbying activities, policies, and oversight mechanisms. The vote garnered 34% at Dupont and 24% at eBay, higher than usual figures.
In 2012, activist investors, coordinated by the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and Walden Asset Management in Boston, fostered a campaign calling for disclosure on lobbying activities and policies. Resolutions were submitted at 40 companies, 20 of which came to a vote, averaging 24% shareholder support. This 2013 shareholder proposal is the first time that a shareholder resolution on lobbying activities and policies has been filed at DuPont. The proposal at eBay was apparently irregular, but Management allowed a vote on it.
The proposals were non-binding and requested of the company that it annually report on its lobbying-related activities, policies, and oversight mechanisms. The Dupont proposal called on the company to report on:
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Newsweek Green Rankings Companies Improve Environmental Transparency October 30th, 2012
The fourth annual Newsweek Green Rankings has found that 20% more of the world’s largest companies reported on their environmental performance in 2012, compared to 2011. The Newsweek Green Rankings aims to “cut through the green chatter and compare the actual environmental footprints, management (policies, programs, initiatives, controversies), and reporting practices” of the 500 largest publicly traded companies in the world. This is good progress; although the report also says more is needed to address the serious resource and sustainability issues facing us.
Global companies are becoming more transparent on their environmental performance, recognizing the risks inherent in a failure to attend to issues such as water and energy. Over 85% of companies in Newsweek’s Green Rankings now disclose some level of detail on their environmental information, representing a 20% improvement on the previous year.
Activist investors, like the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, engage corporations on sustainability issues and regularly encourage companies to report with mechanisms such as the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative), and the Carbon Disclosure Project on carbon and now water.
Newsweek partners with Trucost and Sustainalytics to engage companies in measuring and disclosing environmental performance as an essential first step towards improving it. The Oblates also use Sustainalytics to analyze their portfolio, and provide research guidance for engaging companies.
For more information see Newsweek Green Rankings on The Daily Beast