How will ESG investing fare in a volatile or bear market?
Much has been written about the rise of responsible investing and environment, social and governance (ESG) integration over the past decade. From 2014 to 2016, assets that systematically considered ESG factors in the investment process grew from USD 7.5 trillion to USD 10.4 trillion, with continued momentum over the past several years[i]. However, recent commitments to ESG integration (vs. values-based strategies) have yet to be tested by a significant market downturn. The spike in market volatility experienced in late 2018 has led some to question whether the consideration of ESG factors by investors will continue to flourish in a market environment characterized by investor fear and valuation corrections.
The Royal Commission Report: a new path for the Australian finance industry?
On Monday 4 February, the final report from the Royal Commission inquiry into misconduct in the Australian financial sector was published. It contained a scathing review of years of misconduct and of the failures by regulators to appropriately supervise and hold companies accountable. The report also provided 76 recommendations to fix these issues.
Redefining the purpose of a corporation – theory or practice?
In August 2019, the U.S. Business Roundtable (BRT), a non-profit association composed of corporate CEOs, issued a statement redefining the purpose of a corporation. The BRT has defined a corporation’s purpose as working for the benefit of all stakeholders, such as customers, employees, suppliers, communities where the company operates, as well as shareholders. Drafted following months of consultation with CEOs and members of the political, academic and NGO sectors, the statement was signed by 181 CEOs, or 95% of BRT members (though not by the companies they represent).
Whistleblower Protections in Europe: Considerations for Investors
All organizations have hidden vulnerabilities. Whistleblowing exposes fraud and other financial crimes, thereby giving society an opportunity to act against misbehaviour. Globally, whistleblowers have helped save lives, recover billions of dollars, and protect the environment and local communities.
Industry expert Jon Hale shares his views on attempts to discredit sustainable investing
In a new Medium article highly worth the read, Jon Hale, Global Head, Sustainable Investing Research at Morningstar, writes about recent misleading attacks on the credibility of ESG assessments and sustainable investing. He takes aim at a critical report from The American Council for Capital Formation, a Washington D.C. policy group financed by the National Association of Manufacturers, the fossil fuels industry and various other corporate lobbying organizations.
The 2018 UK Corporate Governance Code – A refreshed view on corporate governance
On July 16th, the Financial Reporting Council released the revised UK Corporate Governance Code, which will take effect on 1 January 2019. The new Code focuses on the relationship between companies, their shareholders, stakeholders and corporate culture. It is shorter and sharper and sets higher standards of corporate governance.
Blockchain-enabled proxy voting on the horizon
While blockchain technology is popularly associated with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, its inherent use case lies in its capacity to maintain registries that are at once speedy, secure, transparent, coherent and reliable. As a result, new solutions have either been proposed, or are being developed, for such disparate areas as land registries, insurance, financial products, healthcare records, and smart appliances. Many of these fields are currently overseen by government bureaucracies or other third-parties, with comparatively sluggish manual input occurring for such mundane tasks as data entry, data retrieval, and user verification. Theoretically, blockchain-enabled “smart contracts” would allow these clerical tasks to be accomplished in a fraction of the time.
Celebrating a diversity of approaches to sustainable investing
I recently traveled from the US to Europe to learn about the major market differences in sustainable investing. For context, investors long rooted in sustainable investing practices have viewed the general US market as lagging compared to Europe. As it pertains to values-based investing, I agree. However, the US has embraced ESG integration in a very sophisticated and pioneering way as it relates to risk mitigation.
Revisiting ESG in China: Has company performance improved?
China’s growing economic power, continuous reforms and liberalizations have made it increasingly important to global capital markets. In 2017, MSCI announced it would add around 230 “A-Shares” to its Emerging Markets and All Country World Index indices in June and September 2018. Due to the large amount of passive-strategy funds worldwide, it is estimated that a total of USD 20 billion, and as much as USD 300 billion at full inclusion, will flow into A-Shares market.
Regulating the Chemicals Industry: How does REACH impact Companies?
Chemical substances are part of our daily lives. They are found everywhere from the cleaning detergents we use to the clothes we wear and our personal electronics. The companies that produce these chemicals, some of which can be hazardous and have a negative impact on human health and the environment, are exposed to several risks and are highly regulated. In Europe, the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation focuses on ensuring the safe use of chemicals, as well as the phasing-out of the most harmful chemical substances. As the third and final REACH registration deadline approaches, we take this opportunity to look at the impact of chemical regulations on the sector and investors.
GDPR and the Right to Privacy
On May 25, 2018, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will enter into force, repealing the 1995 non-legally binding European Union (EU) Data Protection Directive. GDPR enhances European citizens’ right to privacy by enshrining the “right to be forgotten,” establishing concepts like “privacy by design” and by setting aggressive timelines for businesses to report data breaches.
ESG in Australian Banking: A look at the Royal Commission Inquiry
The ongoing Government-appointed Royal Commission inquiry into misconduct in the banking and financial sector has put Australian financial institutions at the centre of a storm of public outrage, media attention and investor concern. Daily headlines are revealing a litany of wrongdoing and raising questions about what went wrong, and the reforms needed to fix it.
Commentary on New Department of Labor Guidance
On April 24th, the US Department of Labor (DOL) released a Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB), seeking to clarify how environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors should be considered under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
Moving the Fashion Industry Forward: Regulations and Industry Tools
Five years ago, the world was awakened to the reality of garment manufacturing conditions in Asia, and specifically in Bangladesh. The production of clothes for the developed markets was posing life-threatening hazards for Bangladeshi garment workers. The Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed 1,100 people and severely injured 2,000, raised awareness among industry organizations, governments, investors and the public about fundamental human rights issues as well as poor working conditions in the region.
US Lawmakers Act Against Tax Inversions: Implications for Corporate Governance
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”), which came into effect on 1 January 2018, marks one of the most substantial reforms to the United States tax code in more than 30 years. In response to growing public pressure, US lawmakers have enacted wide-reaching tax reforms to curb the trend of tax inversions. These tax arrangements involve the re-incorporation of US companies abroad, enabling them to avoid US laws and domestic tax rates. This blog will examine how a corporate inversion – the most common type of tax move – erodes the US tax base and increases investment risk.
Auditor Independence: Lessons from KPMG South Africa & Other Scandals
A good reputation is arguably one of an audit firm’s most valuable assets. But when auditor independence is compromised, it can have very negative consequences for the relevant stakeholders and, in extreme cases, it can even undermine the public’s trust in a country’s financial system. Recent controversies at Tesco and BT Group, involving PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), have led to the unprecedented termination of important business relationships going back three decades. KPMG South Africa’ involvement in a political corruption scandal is also proving to have even more far-reaching implications, which risks impacting KPMG’s international operations. In this blog post, I will delve into these controversies and highlight the mechanisms that can help to preserve auditor independence and maintain a strong reputation.
<UPDATE> P&G vs Trian Partners - the Largest Proxy Fight in History
Preliminary results show that Nelson Peltz lost his proxy contest against P&G. At the conclusion of the AGM, the company announced the election to the board of all 11 of its nominees. Peltz is not yet admitting defeat, stating that the vote results are” too close to call” (within a 1% margin), and has called for P&G to appoint him on the board regardless the vote count. Following the news, P&G’s stock price dropped by 2.7% to USD 89.86, closing, however, at USD 91.62.