BlackRock’s Red-State Woes Continue as Florida Divests

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/blackrocks-red-state-woes-continue-as-florida-divests/

Excerpt:

State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis announced Thursday that the Florida Treasury will begin divesting $2 billion worth of assets currently under management by BlackRock.

BlackRock managed $1.43 billion of Florida’s long duration portfolio, which includes investments such as corporate bonds, asset-backed securities and municipal bonds. Additionally, BlackRock managed $600 million of Florida funds in a short-term treasury fund, which invests in short-term and overnight investments.

Patronis cited efforts by BlackRock and its CEO, Larry Fink, to embrace environmental, social and governance investment principles as the reason Florida will pull the funds from the manager.. In the wake of the announcement, the state will freeze the $1.43 billion in long-term securities at its custodial bank.

….

“It’s my responsibility to get the best returns possible for taxpayers,” Patronis said in the statement. “The more effective we are in investing dollars to generate a return, the more effective we’ll be in funding priorities like schools, hospitals and roads. As major banking institutions and economists predict a recession in the coming year, and as the Fed increases interest rates to combat the inflation crisis, I need partners within the financial services industry who are as committed to the bottom line as we are – and I don’t trust BlackRock’s ability to deliver. As Larry Fink stated to CEOs, ‘Access to capital is not a right. It is a privilege.’ As Florida’s CFO, I agree wholeheartedly, so we’ll be taking Larry up on his offer.”

Author(s): Dusty Hagedorn

Publication Date: 2 December 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund to Reorientate Portfolio to Fully Offset Fossil Fuel Investments

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/chicago-teachers-pension-fund-to-reorientate-portfolio-to-fully-offset-fossil-fuel-investments/

Excerpt:

The Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund trustees in October voted to engage with fossil fuel companies to encourage them towards clean renewable energy sources and investing in viable clean and renewable energy sources to offset the fund’s fossil fuel investments. The fund plans to achieve this goal by the end of 2027.

In a statement shared to Chief Investment Officer, the fund’s CIO Fernando Vinzons wrote, “the fund will approach divestiture from a multi-pronged approach, engaging with current companies to encourage them toward a path of clean renewable energy sources, while working toward the longer-term goal of divesting from publicly traded fossil fuel holdings and investing. Divestment does not attract consensus among institutional investors. Many public pension funds are engaging with companies that produce fossil fuels, some are divesting those companies, and some, as the case with state funds from the state of such as Louisiana, are allocating away from managers perceived to be harming the domestic energy sector by endorsing programs like the Net Zero campaign.

According to a press release from the Chicago Teachers’ pension fund, Carlton W. Lenoir, Sr., executive director at CTPF, commented on the vote saying, “as fiduciaries, our trustees must invest consistent with our mission to protect and enhance the present and future economic well-being of members, pensioners, and beneficiaries, and we are confident that this action fulfills that responsibility.”

Author(s): Dusty Hagedorn

Publication Date: 7 Nov 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Why Bond Liquidity May Be Headed for Trouble

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/why-bond-liquidity-may-be-headed-for-trouble/

Excerpt:

Reduced liquidity for bonds is getting to be a problem, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

At a speech before the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association annual meeting Tuesday, she reiterated an earlier observation that diminished ability to sell bonds is worrisome. Still, at SIFMA, she sought to temper her concern by adding that traders aren’t facing snags executing orders, with the biggest negative impact of lessened liquidity confined to higher transaction costs.

…..

The gauge for bond volatility, the Merrill Lynch Option Volatility Estimate, aka MOVE index, has jumped some 40% since mid-August. Other than a spike in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic, the index (it launched in 2019) has been fairly placid—until 2022 and the beginning of big rate hikes. This all is reminiscent of the stock market’s fast-paced volatility lately.

Another related difficulty for bonds:  the imbroglio resulting from the Federal Reserve’s interest rate increases and the resulting strong dollar risk worldwide. That has promoted a rush by other central banks to match the Fed and jack up rates. To Richard Farr, chief market strategist at Merion Capital, one risk of this trend is that Treasury bonds will end up hurt.

Author(s): Larry Light

Publication Date: 26 Oct 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

A Coalition of Republican Attorneys General Targets Banks for Net-Zero Alliance Membership

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/a-coalition-of-republican-attorneys-general-target-banks-for-net-zero-alliance-membership/

Excerpt:

Republicans have seized upon the issues of net-zero and environmental, social and governance investing to call attention to what they claim are negative effects of so-called ‘woke’ orthodoxy on portfolio performance, and harm the U.S. energy industry.

They have also raised the potential for a lapse in fiduciary duty by arguing that allocating towards long-term ESG goals may create short-term underperformance, harming plan beneficiaries.

The attorneys general of 14 states – Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and five more that have joined but can’t be named due to state laws or regulations regarding confidentiality –have sent civil investigative demands to the six U.S. banks the investigation targets

The six banks did not respond to requests for comment.

The coalition argues that the banks’ membership in the Net-Zero Banking Alliance is damaging U.S. energy companies. The CIDs, similar to subpoenas, are legally enforceable requests for information related to state or federal investigations.

Author(s): Dusty Hagedorn

Publication Date: 25 Oct 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

How Pension Plans Evolved Out of the Great Financial Crisis

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/how-pension-plans-evolved-out-of-the-great-financial-crisis/

Excerpt:

A recent webinar held by the National Institute on Retirement Security, in conjunction with consulting firm Segal and Lazard Asset Management, reviewed the report “Examining the Experience of Public Pension Plans Since the Great Recession,” which examines how public retirement plans weathered the period’s market and made subsequent changes to public pension funds to ensure their long-term sustainability.

Most plans recovered their losses between 2011 and 2014, three to six years after the market bottom. Despite the recession and subsequent loss of value, plans continued to pay out over a trillion dollars in benefits to subscribers during the period.

Todd Tauzer, vice president at Segal, says that since 2008, the models and risk assessment strategies of public plans have evolved greatly. Tauzer says, “funding status alone does not indicate health of a public pension, after all, one cannot see the underlying assumptions used. A plan’s funding status can be measured in many different ways, and the ways we measure can change over time.”

“Plans today are on a much stronger measurement of liability than they were 15 years ago,” according to Tauzer. Adjustments to the assumption of the models in mortality, the assumed rate of return, general population counts, and the assumed rate of inflation are a few of the assumptions modified which give greater clarity into pension health post-GFC.

Author(s): Dusty Hagedorn

Publication Date: 17 Oct 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

So Are ESG Investments Lousy, or Not?

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/in-focus/market-drilldown/so-are-esg-investments-lousy-or-not/?oly_enc_id=2359H8978023B3G

Excerpt:

One criticism of ESG investing is that, when it shows good returns, this might be because of temporary factors that have an outsize impact. Such superior returns are  often driven by climate-news “shocks,” declared Robert Stambaugh, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and two other academics, in a recent paper. The reference is apparently to a spell of severe drought or destructive hurricanes. The professors expressed uncertainty as to whether any future ESG outperformance can be assumed.

Of course, with climate-oriented investing now a partisan issue, a welter of claims and counter-claims has appeared. To pro-ESG folks, science is on their side, hence the opposition is just blowing smoke to confuse people.

Anti-ESG politicians appear to be convincing the public that a “false equivalence” exists between their stance and the sustainability advocates, contended Witold Henisz, director of Wharton’s ESG Initiative, in a recent article in the Knowledge Wharton periodical. He wrote that “ideological opposition [is] cynically seeking a wedge issue for upcoming political campaigns — and, so far, it appears to be working.”

Whatever the outcome of the current debate over ESG-related bans and the like, the climate change question is not going away. Says CalSTRS’s Ailman, “It will be with us for the next 50 years.”

Author(s): Larry Light

Publication Date: 8 Sept 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Public’s Cash Stash Will Cushion a Downturn? Maybe Not

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/publics-cash-stash-will-cushion-a-downturn-maybe-not/

Excerpt:

One calming thought amid today’s economic turmoil has been that any recession would be softened by the large trove of savings that the U.S. public has accrued since the pandemic began. But that cushion may be a lot less protective than many believe, according to a study by Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Pandemic savings have “been run down further than previously thought,” Shepherdson noted. “Consumers’ financial cushion against tighter financial conditions is smaller” than before, he wrote.

Thanks to Washington stimulus and curbed spending in the early days of COVID-19, savings had run up to $2.6 trillion. New government data, however, show that this ready cash has shrunk, no doubt due to high consumer outlays that kicked in since. Almost a third of the trove has been spent.

Indeed, consumers have gone back to their previous ways of preferring spending to saving, and then some. This past decade, before the pandemic, the personal savings rate was around 6% of their disposable income. That shot up to almost 25% in early 2020 and stayed high until the middle of 2021. Lately, it is a mere 3.5%.

Author(s): Larry Light

Publication Date: 10 Oct 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Princeton to ‘Dissociate’ Fossil Fuel Investments

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/princeton-to-dissociate-fossil-fuel-investments/

Excerpt:

Princeton University’s board of trustees has voted to dissociate from 90 companies as part of an administrative process established last year that focuses on companies involved in the thermal coal and tar sands segments of the fossil fuel industry, or that are engaged in climate disinformation campaigns.

Thermal coal, which is burned for steam and used to produce electricity, was made a priority because it emits significantly more carbon dioxide than alternative available fossil fuels, the university said. It also said that tar sands oil, which is derived from loose sands or sandstone, also produces much higher emissions than conventional crude oil, including in its extraction and production process. However, Princeton said thermal coal and tar sands businesses can be exempt from dissociation if they can prove they can meet a rigorous standard for greenhouse gas emissions.

And in a move to help the university reach its goal of eventually having an endowment portfolio that is net zero of greenhouse gases, the Princeton University Investment Company, which manages the university’s $38 billion endowment, will also eliminate all holdings in publicly traded fossil fuel companies. PRINCO said it will also ensure that the endowment does not benefit from any future exposure to fossil fuel companies.

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 6 Oct 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Fiscal Year 2022 Brings Outperformance for Illinois State Teachers’ Retirement System

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/fiscal-year-2022-brings-outperformance-for-illinois-state-teachers-retirement-system/

Excerpt:

The Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois has avoided a significant portfolio downswing despite the equity slowdown that has burdened asset managers with thus far in 2022. Through the second quarter, the fund has returned-1.17% net of fees, a favorable rate of return compared to other public pension systems across the country in fiscal year 2022.

At the end of FY 2022, the 40-year rate of return was 9.3%. This 40-year annualized return eclipses the system’s estimated long-term investment rate of 7%.

The net investment loss will not impact the plans’ ability to pay out benefits to its more than 434,000 members. In 2022, TRS will pay more than $7 billion in benefits to more than 128,000 members and their families.

Author(s): Dusty Hagedorn

Publication Date: 6 Oct 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

19 GOP Attorneys General Slam BlackRock Over ESG Investments

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/19-gop-attorneys-general-slam-blackrock-over-esg-investments/

Excerpt:

A group of 19 Republican state attorneys general have written a letter to BlackRock stating that the asset manager is using state pension fund assets in environmental, social and governance investments that “force the phase-out of fossil fuels, increase energy prices, drive inflation and weaken the national security of the United States.”

The eight-page letter outlines how the group believes BlackRock is using “the hard-earned money of our states’ citizens to circumvent the best possible return on investment.”

“Our states will not idly stand for our pensioners’ retirements to be sacrificed for BlackRock’s climate agenda. The time has come for BlackRock to come clean on whether it actually values our states’ most valuable stakeholders, our current and future retirees, or risk losses even more significant than those caused by BlackRock’s quixotic climate agenda,” the letter says.

The attorneys general asked BlackRock to respond by August 19.

Author(s): Amy Resnick

Publication Date: 9 Aug 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Louisiana Divests Nearly $800 Million from BlackRock to Protect Fossil Fuel Industry

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/louisiana-divests-nearly-800-million-from-blackrock-to-protect-fossil-fuel-industry/

Excerpt:

Louisiana Treasurer John Schroder is divesting $794 million worth of state funds from BlackRock because the world’s largest asset manager’s “blatantly anti-fossil fuel policies would destroy Louisiana’s economy.”

The divestment is in response to BlackRock’s sustainable investing philosophy, and for the firm calling on other companies to embrace net zero investment strategies that would harm the fossil fuel industry, which Schroder notes is a “vital part” of Louisiana’s economy.

“This divestment is necessary to protect Louisiana from actions and policies that would actively seek to hamstring our fossil fuel sector,” Schroder said in a letter to BlackRock CEO Larry Fink. “I refuse to invest a penny of our state’s funds with a company that would take food off tables, money out of pockets and jobs away from hardworking Louisianans.”

When asked to comment, a BlackRock spokesperson said the firm’s view is captured by a line in its Sept. 7 response to a letter it received from a group of 19 Republican state attorneys general saying environmental, social, and governance  investments weaken America’s national security.

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 10 Oct 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Louisiana Divests Nearly $800 Million from BlackRock to Protect Fossil Fuel Industry

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/louisiana-divests-nearly-800-million-from-blackrock-to-protect-fossil-fuel-industry/

Excerpt:

Louisiana Treasurer John Schroder is divesting $794 million worth of state funds from BlackRock because the world’s largest asset manager’s “blatantly anti-fossil fuel policies would destroy Louisiana’s economy.”

The divestment is in response to BlackRock’s sustainable investing philosophy, and for the firm calling on other companies to embrace net zero investment strategies that would harm the fossil fuel industry, which Schroder notes is a “vital part” of Louisiana’s economy.

“This divestment is necessary to protect Louisiana from actions and policies that would actively seek to hamstring our fossil fuel sector,” Schroder said in a letter to BlackRock CEO Larry Fink. “I refuse to invest a penny of our state’s funds with a company that would take food off tables, money out of pockets and jobs away from hardworking Louisianans.”

When asked to comment, a BlackRock spokesperson said the firm’s view is captured by a line in its Sept. 7 response to a letter it received from a group of 19 Republican state attorneys general saying environmental, social, and governance  investments weaken America’s national security.

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 10 Oct 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO