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


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

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/


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

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


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

The Culture Wars Are Coming to the SEC

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


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

Wall Street Lobbies to Bring More ESG Funds Into 401(k)s

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/wall-street-lobbies-to-bring-more-esg-funds-into-401-k-s-11614767400?mod=djemwhatsnews


Money managers are lobbying to scrap a Trump-era rule that makes it difficult for 401(k) plans to invest in socially focused funds.

The Labor Department ruleannounced in October, imposed restrictions on what can and can’t be offered as company 401(k) funds. One result is that plans can’t use funds with nonfinancial goals as default investments for employees.

That means 401(k) overseers and managers need to show that environmental, social and governance strategies can boost financial returns—a challenge for the nascent industry. ESG-focused funds are a growing profit center for asset managers.

Lobbyists representing managers, pensions and retirees began making calls to the Biden transition team in the weeks after the rule was announced. Some lobbyists urged the incoming administration to agree not to enforce the rule and place it under review, said people familiar with the matter.

Author(s): Dawn Lim

Publication Date: 2 March 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal

Italy Goes Green for the First Time With Inaugural Bond Sale

Link: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/italy-goes-green-first-time-082347375.html?.tsrc=fin-srch



Italy is making its first foray into the green bond market, the latest major debt issuer to tap into one of the fastest-growing sectors of finance.

The nation is selling debt maturing in 2045 via banks, an unusual tenor that is expected to draw interest from domestic investors as well as specialist environmental funds. European nations are piling into the market as they seek to finance a greener recovery from the pandemic.

Author(s): John Ainger

Publication Date: 3 March 2021

Publication Site: Yahoo Finance

House scuttles proposals to politicize investments of Indiana Public Retirement System

Link: https://www.elkharttruth.com/news/state/house-scuttles-proposals-to-politicize-investments-of-indiana-public-retirement-system/article_b2427808-e315-5ae3-b66b-ba77baa3ef88.html


State and local government employees, including Hoosier teachers, can breathe a little easier knowing their retirement funds — for now — will not be subject to political whims.

Two proposals seeking to politicize the investments of the Indiana Public Retirement System (INPRS) failed to advance out of the Republican-controlled House by this week’s deadline, and likely will not again be considered by state lawmakers this year.

Author(s): Dan Carden

Publication Date: 24 February 2021

Publication Site: The Elkhart Truth

CalSTRS Aims for New $2 Billion Sustainable Portfolio

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/calstrs-aims-new-2-billion-sustainable-portfolio/


The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) plans to build a private markets sustainable investment portfolio to go greener while aiming to maintain its investment returns.

The investment committee of the $282.5 billion pension system, the largest teachers’ retirement fund in the world, is expected to approve the new portfolio at its meetings next week. 

The pension system’s plan calls for investments of $1 billion to $2 billion in the next couple of years—much of it in real estate affordable housing investments, as well as in private equity and infrastructure—according to CalSTRS investment committee material. 

Author(s): Randy Diamond

Publication Date: 24 February 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Nasdaq Amends Its Diversity Plan

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/nasdaq-amends-its-diversity-plan-11614547707


We have listened closely to all the feedback, and we’re making some changes to strengthen our proposal in response. For example, we heard from companies with smaller boards, as well as from several small-cap investors, that meeting the diversity objective would be more challenging for them. As a result of that feedback, we’re now proposing that companies with five or fewer directors may satisfy the recommended objective with one director from a diverse background rather than two. We’re also providing a one-year grace period in the event a vacancy on the board brings a company under the recommended diversity objective.

Overall, our proposal seeks to demonstrate that, with proper disclosure and clear objectives, companies and investors can create momentum toward an approach to capitalism that offers more opportunity to more people. We believe this can be accomplished through a market-driven solution — rather than government intervention.

Author(s): Adena T. Friedman, president and CEO of Nasdaq Inc.

Publication Date: 28 February 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal

Senate Republicans oppose Nasdaq diversity rule

Link: https://www.pionline.com/governance/senate-republicans-oppose-nasdaq-diversity-rule


Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., was among a group of Republicans calling on the SEC to reject Nasdaq’s board diversity proposal.

Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee told the Securities and Exchange Commission to reject a Nasdaq proposal allowing it to require listed companies to publicly disclose the gender and racial diversity of their boards and eventually to have at least two diverse directors, citing a connection between diverse boards and corporate performance.


Publication Date: 12 February 2021

Publication Site: Pensions & Investments

To Fight Climate Change, Should Green Investors Reconsider Big Oil?

Link: https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/to-fight-climate-change-should-green-investors-reconsider-big-oil


Should eco-conscious investors support a company that’s developing innovative solutions to climate change—even if that company is also a major polluter?

The market’s answer to this question has been a resounding “no,” as evidenced by the investment policies that exclude traditional oil producers from most so-called sustainable funds. But this stance eliminates some of the most prolific and influential producers of green innovation, including Exxon Mobil, BP, and Chevron, according to recent research by Harvard Business School Professor Lauren Cohen.

Faced with mounting concerns about climate change, oil companies are diversifying their businesses, putting money toward renewable energy sources and green technology. While sustainable funds shun fossil fuel producers, which contribute half of the world’s greenhouse gases, Cohen’s study suggests that these companies could also play a key role in stemming the damage.

Author(s): Kristen Senz

Publication Date: 16 February 2021

Publication Site: Harvard Business School Working Knowledge

Pension fund agrees to push further on corporate board diversity


 The board that manages the state’s $86.9 billion pension fund voted Wednesday morning to increase its standards for board diversity and equal employment opportunity at the thousands of companies it invests in, and to promote shareholder proposals related to health coverage and pandemic hazard pay.

The Pension Reserves Investment Management (PRIM) Board signed off on the policy changes developed by Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and recommended by a PRIM subcommittee that would direct PRIM to use its proxy vote as a shareholder to vote against board nominees if the gender and racial makeup of the company’s board do not meet PRIM’s standards, and to support requirements that companies be diverse in terms of race, gender, use of minority-owned businesses as contractors, and use of women-owned businesses as contractors.

Author(s): COLIN A. YOUNG

Publication Date: 25 February 2021

Publication Site: Lowell Sun