SMH: Savings Funds Keep Voting Down Shareholder Climate Action Initiatives

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Climate shaming retirement savings fund managers who don’t comply with the green agenda.

Top super funds increasingly vote down climate resolutions

By Charlotte Grieve
June 8, 2020 — 8.00pm

Eight major super funds have been criticised for voting against the majority of shareholder proposals on climate change at recent annual general meetings despite being members of an investor group pushing for companies to take action on climate risks.

AMP, AustralianSuper and First State Super are among the funds singled out in a report by the Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) for voting down more than half the climate-related shareholder proposals over the past three years.

“The issue here is – is there a difference between what funds are telling their members and what they’re actually doing? If they’re saying they’re active owners and their voting behaviour says something different, that is a real concern,” ACCR’s climate director Dan Gocher said.

Ms Davidson said measuring the number of shareholder resolutions approved by super funds was not indicative of their commitment to climate change as some proposals lacked merit.

“Shareholder resolutions are quite a blunt instrument and in our view sometimes failure to support a shareholder resolution is because the resolution itself isn’t too good,” Ms Davidson said. “I genuinely believe super funds are more focused now on climate change than they ever have before and that is leading to change at companies.

“Sometimes it is slower than everyone would like but at the same time change is happening.”

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I agree that savings fund managers should not lie to their investors. If fund managers have been deceiving retirement savers about their climate action intentions, they deserve to be exposed.

There are plenty of green funds for people whose highest priority is climate change. But green funds represent a small fraction of the total investment pool.

The green response to lack of public interest appears to be to try to inflict their agenda on everyone, by pressuring the industry to turn all savings funds into green funds.

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June 8, 2020 5:01 pm

We have a war on Coronavirus and a War for Climate action.
This post concerns the second which is presently engaging only 2% of the American Public’s priorities as a significant public issue.
Let’s concentrate on the first War.
As Lincoln said in late 1861 when faced with a possible war with Britain – “One war at a time”.

Krudd Gillard of the Commondebt of Australia
Reply to  Herbert
June 8, 2020 5:41 pm

There is no evidence that covid-1984 is any more lethal than the seasonal ‘flu.

I’d hardly call the common cold a war.

Reply to  Krudd Gillard of the Commondebt of Australia
June 8, 2020 6:04 pm

So China totally locked down Wuhan for…

Big Al
Reply to  Analitik
June 8, 2020 6:52 pm

I guess, err, 76 days Wuhan locked down.

Krudd Gillard of the Commondebt of Australia
Reply to  Analitik
June 8, 2020 6:56 pm

…to give western hand-wringers an excuse to put on the brown underpants.

Reply to  Krudd Gillard of the Commondebt of Australia
June 8, 2020 6:26 pm

There is substantial evidence to say that in many countries it caused more deaths than any recent flu season. Just a casual glance at the excess death rates on (which allows you a reasonable history to look through) would tell you that Covid19 is a severe outbreak. Did you actually look for any evidence or just deem it not to exist?

Reply to  yarpos
June 8, 2020 6:50 pm

I heard an interesting comment on the radio this morning, from an official source as it relates to Victoria: First 5 months of 2019 there were 31 Influenza related deaths; First 5 months of 2020 there have been 19 Covid related deaths, Zero Influenza. Now, notwithstanding the ‘lockdown’ which would slow anything up, including the economy, that’s a startling statistic by any measure, but generally not disseminated out.

Reply to  Neil
June 9, 2020 5:16 am

of course not
they have spent mega mill on crappy fluvax they need to get ridof
keeping kids isolated from gen pop as well as iso and the handwashing thing
no wonder colds n flu arenthappening either
now kids are back to schools sports starting etc watch the cold nflu start up

Krudd Gillard of the Commondebt of Australia
Reply to  yarpos
June 8, 2020 7:07 pm

So severe that countries that have not had lock-downs are going ok. So severe, that there are no credible reports from developing or 3rd world countries of covid carnage.

It’s like a western-only pandemic.

And if it is that serious why haven’t our governments conducted extensive testing to establish the real penetration of the virus?

Reply to  yarpos
June 8, 2020 8:07 pm

Not to be a stick in the mud, yarpos, but why do we assume excess deaths are automatically attributed to Covid19? Here in my town, an recently unemployed man murdered his wife last month; local reports are that he snapped due to financial distress. We’ll never know for certain, but his deceased wife is certainly an excess death. Then there’s the large number of people foregoing vital medical treatment and testing either out of fear or because they weren’t allowed. A local man nearby was reported to have died several weeks ago because he couldn’t get a stent in his heart due to the procedure being considered elective. Excess death?
And I’m not saying any of this to deny the elderly and those with compromised health aren’t at great risk of dying from Covid19, but the young and healthy certainly don’t appear to be.

Krudd Gillard of the Commondebt of Australia
Reply to  badEnglish
June 9, 2020 1:32 am

You go to the heart of the matter, English of the Bad Variety, amen.

It would seem from some attitudes expressed that if a relative few people actually die from COVID-1984, people who might otherwise have been picked off by this year’s seasonal ‘flu, then this is the biggest moral failing of our times. But if people commit suicide because of financial stress caused by the lock down or if the ugly societal scourge of family violence increases or if people die because they can’t other get admission to a hospital for pretty routine treatments…then that’s ok.

The pants wetting over this year’s ‘flu has been unbelievable. You are invited to watch them run when the penny drops with everyone else.

Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  Eric Worrall
June 8, 2020 8:25 pm

He still felt they were on the right path, just that they would have done more to protect the old.

People keep twisting his words to make it seem he feels they totally missed the boat.

He didn’t and they didnt. We in North American will very likely have a second wave where they won’t

Phil Rae
Reply to  Eric Worrall
June 9, 2020 5:46 am

Anders Tegnell has been extensively misquoted. He still thinks Sweden adopted the right approach and it’s difficult to argue with that conclusion.

Perhaps it could have been tweaked better and, of course, they made the same mistake as many others by failing to isolate care homes but overall, Sweden did pretty well.

Also worth noting that Norway (a neighbour with a small population and very low population density that is often quoted as a comparison to show Sweden’s experience in a bad light) wishes it had followed Sweden’s example.

Old Ranga from Oz
Reply to  Krudd Gillard of the Commondebt of Australia
June 9, 2020 11:55 pm

Even less of a risk if you’re in your 80s and missed the free flu jab.

Seasonal flu is a known known to be feared by the elderly. Some 200,000 Australian oldies were taken by it in 2019. COVID-19 risk, for fit and healthy oldies without co-morbidities, is an known unknown. Scare campaigns to stop people playing golf in the open air are counterproductive. People stop trusting state premiers who push the party line too far.

Chairman Dan, our Victorian socialist Premier, has lost my support. I don’t believe him any longer. The ballot box awaits politicians who mislead their constituents.

June 8, 2020 5:13 pm

Any pension funds invested solely in “GreenFunds” would not likely (I contend) be able to consistantly meet it’s financial goals in order to provide adequately for their pensioners. .

Reply to  gringojay
June 8, 2020 5:42 pm

Divestment is “a really stupid and futile gesture”…


Reply to  gringojay
June 8, 2020 9:16 pm

Exactly, which is why I’m so much in favor of those demanding “climate action” vote with their money to invest heavily in their very own “GreenFunds” money management scheme. Just don’t inflict that madness on me.

Reply to  gringojay
June 8, 2020 10:54 pm

They have been warned in Australia they could face damages actions if a member viewed the policy causes them loses. Even disclosing your investment policy upfront does not help you are required to act in the best interest of the client regardless of what the client asks. The wording under the act is called “best interests duty and the obligations”

So we have the strange situation in Australia that super funds could as easily face damages for investing in fossil fuels as investing in green technologies. So it is getting very tricky for super funds to play politics at all when the law demands they use best judgement.

Reply to  gringojay
June 9, 2020 5:21 am

yup and the activists buy minimal share to get into meeting to pretend theres a lot of others going to pul shares/sell
latest stunt is the greenpeas and others getting petitions going
you can bet none of the signatories own shares so they dont give a stuff
theyre there for the warmist agenda, stop all fossil or anything they dont like..
theyre doing the same to the banks
fooling the idiots into not loaning for viable biz cops its not PC /green/nice enough

John Endicott
Reply to  ozspeaksup
June 9, 2020 7:55 am

While I don’t have many shares myself, whenever one of the companies I do have shares in has one of those activist questions on the agenda, I make sure to cast my “against” vote. Fortunately, the boards of all the companies I’ve got stock in have consistently recommended “against” on those questions, if they ever recommended “for” and/or if the question ever succeeded that’d be a sure sign it’s time to sell my shares in that company with all due haste while I can still sell at a profit.

June 8, 2020 5:24 pm

A Superannuation fund that rejected “Climate Action Initiatives” is far more appealing to me both on my assessment of likely returns and on an ethical basis.

June 8, 2020 6:13 pm

Every month I check in on the ongoing Gallup poll: What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today? It’s open ended which means you can give any answer you want and you aren’t prompted. The tricky bit for the pollsters is how to categorize people’s answers.

Unsurprisingly, coronavirus is the most important problem for 40% of people. Government/leadership comes in next at 24%.

Environment/Pollution/Climate Change had been as high as 5% recently. It’s still 1% so it hasn’t quite fallen off the map.

When people are feeling good they worry about things like the environment. When they’re feeling threatened, such things are forgotten.

Reply to  commieBob
June 8, 2020 7:26 pm

In other words, they worry about real, current things. Not imaginary future things. No?
How sensible!

June 8, 2020 6:19 pm

Basically because the are tiny noisy acivist minorities that do do express the views of the overall membership base. I have already shuffled money about when Super Funds loaded up options I was in with so called RE projects. I do my best to stay informed an avoid supporting stupidity.

June 8, 2020 6:48 pm

“Top super funds increasingly”

“increasingly”; is that word trying to infer “OMG, It’s worse than we thought!” and meant to incite greater fear?

After a global reminder that there are far greater dangers to Earth than demonizing a beneficial trace gas., one expects those funds will cease wasting time on faux alarmism. Then “increasingly” will truly come to pass.


Janice Moore
June 8, 2020 7:28 pm

Real money does not invest in climate-fr@ud schemes such as wind or solar. Those are for speculators. Pension fund managers have a statutory (ERISA (1974)) fiduciary duty.

(Section 404(a)(1)(B) of ERISA)

to minimize the risk of large losses

ERISA § 404(a)(1), 29 U.S. Code § 1104 (a)(1)(C).

Pension fund managers are, thus, “risk-averse.”

Not only do their jobs depend upon it, their avoiding prison time depends upon it.

Wind, solar, electric car, etc. schemes rely heavily on market-share by fiat and favorable government regulation/funding from taxes/rate surcharges. All of this funding/market share can disappear *POOF* overnight — with the results of just — one — election.

Watch out, you “renewables” sc@mmers…. once he isn’t having to be careful about getting re-elected, Donald Trump is no longer going to approve bogus JUNK like the Nevada solar “farm.”

IOW: your days are numbered… .


TRUMP 2020!

June 8, 2020 7:28 pm

Sometimes it is slower than everyone would like but at the same time change is happening.

For a moment I thought they were talking about climate change. Shrug. Works for that too…

June 8, 2020 7:57 pm

Wait for it….. when fund holders realize their “green” portfolios are under performing and move to another fund that doesn’t have social benefits but performs above average financially. With the trend towards removing subsidies for ‘green stuff’ I see the exit accelerating.

Joel O'Bryan
June 8, 2020 8:46 pm

SMH = Smack My Head

Russell Chapman
June 8, 2020 9:07 pm

Any director of an Australian Super Fund who makes decisions in order to generate an outcome other than maximising shareholders returns WILL face fines and could face jail.
This is first year law student stuff, and I don’t understand why ACCR continues to advocate otherwise. If someone accedes to their demands and faces action, I hope they drag ACCR down with them.

Reply to  Russell Chapman
June 9, 2020 1:56 am

Yes you are correct and they have been warned by the regulator which is why they are doing nothing beyond lip service. What is clear is Charlotte Grieve is obviously a junior reporter.

Bruce of Newcastle
June 8, 2020 10:06 pm

You can see where all this is going.
I wonder if there will be any actual money left in their accounts when they retire in 40 years time?
Or if the balance is just a comforting number in a computer.

So it’s completely understandable when Canberra recently allowed early superannuation access to up to $20,000, due to the Covid-19 crisis, that a million people applied. I too got my whole superfund balance out as soon as I could.

June 9, 2020 12:27 am

The SOLE function of a pension fund is to wisely invest to ensure a proper return and assure the capital needed to pay the benefits of those who contribute. It is NOT there to promote a partisan political campaign to “save the planet”.

Juan Slayton
June 9, 2020 7:51 am

Just in case you were wondering (as I was) Ms Davidson is “…chief executive of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors”.

John Brisbin
June 9, 2020 7:56 am

Sounds like a confusion between “voting against the majority of shareholder proposals” and “voting against a proposal with a shareholder majority” in the embedded quoted article.

Just another example of Watermelon Logic.

June 9, 2020 9:12 am

“Eight major super funds have been criticised for voting against the majority of shareholder proposals on climate change”

The way this is worded, I first read ‘majority of shareholders’, the did a double take. Could this be deliberate to fool readers into thinking there is majority support anywhere? or am I just paranoid?

Richard from Brooklyn (south)
June 9, 2020 1:21 pm

Point of information. Even if it was “a majority of shareholders” it is highly unlikely to be a vote representing a majority of the votes. Most shareholders by value are corporate and have very large shareholdings. Private shareholders hold small bundles of shares (by and large) and while many in number are small by way of percentage of the value of the total shares and thus total weight of votes.
I refer readers to the Arthur Scargill case n the UK (National Union of Mineworkers) who, as a trustee of the unions super fund, required investment in coal mining. A member sued saying the trustee’s role was to invest to the greater financial interests of members of the fund, not for political or campaign interests. The court upheld basic trustee law that trustees must act in the best financial interests of beneficiaries (members of the Super fund).
I have been a professional trustee (inter alia) for 30 years and often take investment managers to task for talking up ‘green’ investments which they try to sell to fellow trustees as the next ‘big thing’. The investment managers back off when I tell them that if they included this in our investment mix I would give the specific returns a close look and seek recompense for any loss caused by the taint of ‘green investment’.

June 9, 2020 10:27 pm

I am very pleased to hear that superannuation funds are acting in accordance with Australian law which requires trustees of super funds to act in the best interests of the contributors. If these companies (acting as trustees) form the view that is voting against climate change activities, then so be it. They have no legal right to do anything else. And if the green grubbies try to enforce this, then super fund trustees should take them to court for trying to subvert trustees from their legal responsibilities.

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