DiNapoli: State Pension Fund Calls on Companies to Address Climate Risk, Transition to Cleaner Operations

Link: https://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/2021/03/dinapoli-state-pension-fund-calls-companies-address-climate-risk-transition-cleaner-operations

Excerpt:

The New York State Common Retirement Fund (Fund) has reached agreements with five major U.S. companies, including Domino’s Pizza Inc., to set targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), adopt new energy efficiency measures and increase their use of renewable energy, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, trustee of the Fund, announced today. In response to the agreements, the Fund withdrew the shareholder resolutions with the companies.

“More and more companies understand that addressing climate change, by reducing their carbon emissions, helps their long-term success and benefits investors,” DiNapoli said. “The transition to a low carbon future and meeting our country’s renewed commitment to the Paris Agreement present enormous opportunities for smart, sustainable investments. My thanks to these companies for recognizing their role in building a lower-carbon economy and their responsibility to shareholders’ concerns about climate risk.”

Author(s): Thomas DiNapoli

Publication Date: 4 March 2021

Publication Site: Office of the New York State Comptroller

RIP Gold. Killed by Bitcoin

Excerpt:

Can the store of value argument hold up for BTC without it being a medium of exchange? It has for gold for thousands of years so quite possibly. Gold is money but it’s not readily usable currency. BTC could be considered in the same light.

The artificiality of BTC’s value is a problem. It can be argued using cultural relativism that gold is no more intrinsically valuable than BTC. But it does have a long history, especially as a reserve currency, that must be worth something. Can we see central banks buying BTC? Certainly not if it develops as a parallel medium of currency that undermines them.

Likewise, gold is the outcome of production. BTC consumes resources to produce nothing. Not that that is necessarily a problem in a virtual world but it again weighs against the perception of BTC as a store of value. So does the fact that BTC is a truly useless item if some kind catastrophe befalls society which does underping the value of gold in some measure.

Author(s): David Llewellyn-Smith, Yves Smith

Publication Date: 4 March 2021

Publication Site: naked capitalism

Municipal Bond Outlook: Recovering at Different Speeds

Link: https://www.pimco.com/en-us/insights/investment-strategies/featured-solutions/municipal-bond-outlook-recovering-at-different-speeds/

Graphic:

Excerpt:

In 2021, the composition of municipal supply could be a key swing factor for high quality muni performance. Last year, taxable muni supply hit an all-time record of $181 billion, due in no small part to the elimination of tax-exempt advance refundings in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). The shrinking supply of tax exempts has provided a tailwind to muni market performance, particularly for high quality tax-exempt munis, which have enjoyed a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels.

Author(s): David Hammer

Publication Date: 19 February 2021

Publication Site: PIMCO

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer Loosening City Pension Private Equity Rules Will Help Him, Hurt Pensioners

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsiedle/2021/02/24/new-york-city-comptroller-scott-stringer-loosening-city-pension-private-equity-rules-will-help-him-hurt-pensioners/?sh=6bdb3ceb2592

Excerpt:

What a remarkable coincidence that New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer is looking to loosen strict rules that govern private-equity firms managing the city’s pensions when the Democrat is running for mayor in this year’s election. Presumably, private equity firms who may earn hundreds of millions in fees if the pension restrictions are lifted will let him know just how grateful they are.

Author(s): Edward Siedle

Publication Date: 24 February 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

Can States Be Trusted To Manage Retirement Savings? Two New Reasons For Concern

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ebauer/2021/02/28/can-states-be-trusted-to-manage-retirement-savings-two-new-reasons-for-concern/

Excerpt:

Readers, I have long been of the opinion that it’s a sensible approach to enable savers to choose among multiple retirement funds, so that they are able to reflect their particular ethical concerns, whether this means an “ESG” (environmental, social, and governance-issue focused) fund or a religious-screening approach, such as excluding companies which donate to Planned Parenthood (Ave Maria Funds) or which are in the alcohol industry (GuideStone Funds).

But no state official should be using investors’ money to play politics — not the money of individual investors through state-run IRAs or the retirement savings accounts of state employees, and not the money of public pension funds. And, frankly, I find it appalling that these sorts of actions aren’t universally considered to be wholly out of bounds — but I suppose living in Illinois (newly-declared the third-most-corrupt state, with Chicago as the most-corrupt city), I suppose I should lower my expectations. Readers in the remaining 49 states, however, should watch carefully.

Author(s): Elizabeth Bauer

Publication Date: 28 February 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

Diversity Quotas ‘Absolutely’ Work, Ursula Burns Says

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/diversity-quotas-absolutely-work-ursula-burns-says/

Excerpt:

Change will not come naturally to corporate boards without diversity quotas, according to Ursula M. Burns, the former chairman and CEO of Xerox. She was the first Black female chief executive of a Fortune 500 company. 

“I was dead set against quotas, but now I think quotas are absolutely, positively acceptable,” Burns said in a keynote panel for the California Conference for Women. “They’re the punishment that you get when you don’t do the right thing by yourself.” 

She noted how a change in the Golden State’s laws spurred the naming of female directors, in a conversation with California first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who helped found gender equity nonprofit California Partners Project, directed the documentary film “Miss Representation,” and moderated the panel. Burns pointed out that public companies in California were quick to find women for their directorships when it was mandated by law in 2018, despite previously insisting that there is too little female talent in the pipeline. 

Author(s): Sarah Min

Publication Date: 5 March 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Greensill Capital planning to file for insolvency in U.K. this week

Link: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/greensill-capital-planning-to-file-for-insolvency-in-u-k-this-week-11614789098

Excerpt:

Embattled financial startup Greensill Capital plans to file for insolvency in the U.K. this week, as it simultaneously moved toward a deal to sell its operating business to Apollo Global Management APO, -1.69%, according to people familiar with the matter.

The deal with Apollo, which could be struck by the end of the week, would be part of a Greensill insolvency, similar to the U.S. bankruptcy process, the people said.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported the two sides were in talks for a deal that would pay Greensill around $100 million. Through the acquisition Apollo would take over Greensill’s core operations and inherit clients that generate around $7 billion in assets, according to the people familiar with the matter.

Author(s): Julie Steinberg and Ben Dummett

Publication Date: 3 March 2021

Publication Site: MarketWatch

Wall Street wants to end Trump-era ESG fund rule for 401(k) plans

Link: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/04/wall-street-wants-to-end-trump-era-esg-fund-rule-for-401k-plans.html

Excerpt:

The Labor Department issued a rule in October, during the Trump administration, that experts say would curb use of ESG funds in 401(k) plans.

Money managers and other stakeholders are pushing the Biden administration to scrap the rule or agree not to enforce it, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Investor demand for ESG funds has grown significantly. 401(k) plans represent a big untapped growth source.

Author(s): Greg Iacurci

Publication Date: 4 March 2021

Publication Site: CNBC

EXPLAINER: Why rising rates are unsettling Wall Street

Link: https://apnews.com/article/coronavirus-pandemic-financial-markets-stock-markets-inflation-prices-96e01a1db876bd4ad7e183e8cb4874e8

Excerpt:

WHY ARE INFLATION AND GROWTH EXPECTATIONS RISING?

Coronavirus vaccines will hopefully get economies humming this year, as people feel comfortable returning to shops, businesses reopen and workers get jobs again. The International Monetary Fund expects the global economy to grow 5.5% this year following last year’s 3.5% plunge.

A stronger economy often coincides with higher inflation, though it’s been generally trending downward for decades. Congress is also close to pumping another $1.9 trillion into the U.S. economy, which could further boost growth and inflation.

Author(s): STAN CHOE and ALEX VEIGA

Publication Date: 26 February 2021

Publication Site: Associated Press

More Rate Scares Ahead for Stocks

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/more-rate-scares-ahead-for-stocks-11614772800

Excerpt:

Expectations of a stronger economy count as a positive development for companies’ earnings prospects, but they are pushing long-term interest rates higher, with the 10-year Treasury recently yielding 1.41% versus 0.93% at the start of the year. That isn’t unusual, since long-term rates typically go up as the economy’s prospects improve, but then again stocks haven’t tended to be as expensive at the start of recoveries as they are now.

The S&P 500 trades at about 22 times analysts’ expected earnings over the next year, according to FactSet, which is close to its highest forward price-earnings ratio in 20 years. In December 2009, six months after the last recession ended, the S&Ps forward P/E ratio was about 14.

As a result, even relatively modest moves upward in Treasury yields, and therefore the relative attractiveness of bonds to stocks, can cause market spasms. This is particularly true of the richly valued technology shares that have been among the biggest market winners since last spring.

Author(s): Justin Lahart

Publication Date: 3 March 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal

The Culture Wars Are Coming to the SEC

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-culture-wars-are-coming-to-the-sec-11614813925

Excerpt:

At Tuesday’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Pat Toomey pressed Gary Gensler on the scope of the SEC’s authority to regulate politics. Let’s say “a publicly-traded company spends a financially insignificant amount of money on, let’s say, electricity,” Mr. Toomey proposed. “Is it material whether that electricity came from renewable sources or not?”

Mr. Gensler resisted answering, saying “it may not be material or it may be material.” This isn’t reassuring. The concept of materiality is crucial to securities regulation because it defines the transparency required for investors to make prudent decisions. The SEC is supposed to protect investors from fraud by making sure they have access to accurate information about a firm’s performance.

But progressives want to use the agency’s watchdog responsibilities as a guise to bend finance in service of unrelated political goals, like climate. Mr. Gensler seemed to reserve the right to impose such politicized disclosure requirements, even when the information is “financially insignificant.”

Author(s): Editorial board

Publication Date: 3 March 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal

Damschroder: Ohio teachers pension mauled by Panda

Link: https://www.thenews-messenger.com/story/news/2021/03/03/damschroder-ohio-teachers-pension-mauled-panda/6883736002/

Excerpt:

The Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) revived oversight theater, a suit and tie simulation of supervising the $200 billion state pensions. In the first act, ORSC started the process for fiduciary audits of the teachers and police and fire pensions a mere five years after their legal deadline.

….

In reality, STRS has recent evidence that alternative investments come with the risk of massive losses. The Ohio teachers’ pension was one of the first investors in Dallas-based Panda Power. Panda is a merchant generator building plants run by cheap shale gas to produce more profitable electricity. The business model collapsed when utility regulators did not approve anticipated rates. Panda’s bankruptcy filing showed debt of $400 million against cash on hand of $2,000.

Author(s): John Damschroder

Publication Date: 3 March 2021

Publication Site: Fremont News Messenger