Tag Archives | BlackRock

CII: Climate Competency & Risk

Shifting Investor Perspectives on Climate Risk & Board Climate Competency

These notes on climate competency are my last post from the Council of Institutional Investors Fall 2017 conference.  Find more at .  As a member of the press, I was excluded from the policy-making meetings. Still, it was a great opportunity to touch base with members of CII and to learn of recent developments and where we may be headed.

The panel discussion on climate risk and board competency hosted by the 50/50 Climate Project and the New York City Comptroller’s Office. From the program:

Following the historic majority votes on climate risk shareholder proposals in 2017, this panel discussion will explore evolving institutional investor viewpoints on climate risk and opportunity. The panelists will also examine how these changing perspectives and other shifts in the capital markets will sculpt investor expectations and engagements around climate risk disclosures and boardroom climate competency at portfolio companies in the 2018 proxy season.

Climate Competency: The Speakers

Climate Competency: High Profile Changes

I may not have the numbers totally accurate, but the direction is clear. There was a sea-change in support for climate competency resolutions at high profile companies. The vote at Exxon-Mobil went from something like 36% in 2016 to 62% in 2017.

At Occidental, it went from something like 49% in 2016 to 79% in 2017. The vote was large credited to BlackRock and Vanguard finally voting to address this growing risk. It was pointed out, change occurred not only on climate but other issues as well. For example, the Say-on-pay withhold at Southern went from something like 7% to 39%.

Are we witnessing a revolution in how large mostly indexed funds will vote going forward? Maybe, but there was little change in voting at less visible companies. Let us hope this year was aimed at real change, not just positive publicity to help investors feel better. See Key Climate Vote Survey Provides Tool.

Climate Competency: What I Heard

Asset owners are updating their policies led by the New York City Comptroller, CalPERS, CalSTRS, and other public pensions. Now mainstream funds are beginning to see climate competency or risk as material. BlackRock is looking at risk.

At the NYC Comptroller, about 1/3 of proxy access targets were chosen because of questionable climate competency. They wrote to 150 companies. 140 did proxy access without proposal. 11 with. Now they are seeking a matrix of board race, gender, etc. and are asking to engage on the board refreshment process. They are reviewing several mechanisms for investor input, wanting to ensure climate competency and diverse boards. Capital allocations are positioning for low carbon future. So far, initiatives have led to positive engagements.

There was discussion around the recently released 5050climate.org Key Climate Vote Survey. Carbon foot printing is an imperfect assessment of risk. NYC Comptroller has engaged with many companies. Hear what the company says. Give them a chance to talk through. We want to be seen as constructive. We don’t want to tell companies to do something that they can’t. We are providing risk profiles on clients to them. At this point, there is no real competition yet between major funds for lowest carbon footprint and highest return. That could be coming.

State Street put out its first paper on topic in early 2016. Their CEO sent out a letter that boards should consider sustainability. They took a deep dive into 50 companies around the globe to determine the role of investors. Is risk analysis robust and integrated into long term strategy? What is the board oversight? Does the company have GHG goals, carbon price disclosure (average and range), and can they articulate how their analysis impacts the allocation strategy? Reports go back to the investment analysts.

Dave Jones has influence over the 1300 insurance companies operating in California. In 2009 the national association put out climate risk survey. We want insurance companies get positive returns on their investments so they can be solvent enough to pay claims. They found insurance companies were not paying adequate attention to risk in portfolio companies that directly rely on burning carbon. In 2016, part of their initiative was to get public disclosure of investments in high carbon companies through a mandatory survey.

Particular concerns are with coal as many of those companies have started going broke. Jones became convinced that most thermal coal would be stranded assets. He has asked insurance firms to stop such investments. However, there is no mandate, other than to report. They also looked at companies putting too many eggs in one basket – like investing in specific geographic areas but also having heavy insurance concentrations in same areas.

His office is sharing best practice with insurance regulators around the world. Washington State is also doing quite a bit in trying to get climate competency in all sectors of the economy by at least reporting GHG.

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Climate Risk – Walden Moves BlackRock

Walden Moves BlackRock, Thanks to Timothy Smith

Walden Moves BlackRock, Thanks to Timothy Smith

Walden Moves BlackRock: Background

A number of investors, led by Walden moves BlackRock on climate Risk. Walden Asset Management and the Center for Community Change, along with the City of Seattle Employees’ Retirement System and First Affirmative Financial Network, filed a shareholder resolution requesting a review of BlackRock’s proxy voting process and record on climate change.

Following extensive engagement and constructive dialogue between BlackRock, Walden and a number of investors, the shareholder resolution was withdrawn. As a result of the dialogue, BlackRock has updated its website to provide fresh insights into the ways it believes climate change creates risks and opportunities for companies. BlackRock also noted that climate risk will be a priority for their engagement with companies and boards throughout 2017 and 2018. Continue Reading →

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Investor Stewardship Group: 1 Share, 1 Vote

Investor Stewardship Group logoInvestor Stewardship Group Launches Stewardship Framework for 2018

The Investor Stewardship Group (link), a collective of some of the largest U.S.-based institutional investors and global asset managers, along with several of their international counterparts, announced the launch of the Framework for U.S. Stewardship and Governance, a historic, sustained initiative to establish a framework of basic standards of investment stewardship and corporate governance for U.S. institutional investor and boardroom conduct.one share one vote

My own impression is that this group has been carefully constructed, probably stemming from many discussions at ICGN and CII. They have certainly started with an impressive group. Although most of the principles are relatively ‘safe,’ I am delighted to see their position that “shareholders should be entitled to voting rights in proportion to their economic interest.” That one recommendation alone is huge. I hope they continue to build on their initial consensus items.

Internet Roadblock

Of course, the internet changes everything. Companies used to go public to raise money for factories, staff, etc. Now, they raise funds from private equity funds and scale all the way because they can build out through the internet with coding and algorithms. They go public only when founders and initial supporters want to cash out a portion of their investment. Continue Reading →

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Climate Competency Needed in Boardrooms

Rich Ferlauto on Climate Competency

Rich Ferlauto on Climate Competency

Large institutional investors, concerned about portfolio risks stemming from the effects of global warming, are calling for climate-competent boards and directors as part of their fiduciary responsibility to preserve and enhance the long-term value of their investment assets.

Despite the anticipated rollback of climate related governmental policies such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and limits on methane emissions by the Trump administration, investors still need to understand the risks that climate change poses to their portfolios. Unequivocal disclosures and boards equipped to manage and govern climate risk will be more important than ever. Now, however, it appears investors will not able to rely on federal regulatory standards or policy interventions to manage climate risk related to greenhouse gas emissions and the emphasis on fossil fuel production. They will be left to their devices to understand the very real financial impacts that climate issues could have on their portfolios. Continue Reading →

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Commonsense Principles: Ground Floor

Commonsense Principles of Corporate Governance. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and a group of influential leaders in business and finance have joined to develop a set of "commonsense" principles that institutional investors and governance advisers are mostly applauding. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images and used by Washington Post)

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and a group of influential leaders in business and finance have joined to develop a set of “commonsense” principles that institutional investors and governance advisers are mostly applauding. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images and used by Washington Post)

The so-called Commonsense Principles of Corporate Governance are posted here mostly for my future reference, since I don’t know how long others will keep them on the internet. The authors are no radicals, but are a group of 13 executives from the country’s largest public companies and institutional investors… very much mainstream CEOs. Almost half hold both CEO and chair positions, a practice many investors consider bad corporate governance. The Commonsense Principles are supposed to “provide a basic framework for sound, long-term oriented governance” at public companies. Continue Reading →

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Reeds Delivered a Corrected Proxy for Christmas

Reeds Delivered a Corrected Proxy for Christmas

Reeds Delivered a Corrected Proxy for Christmas

There it was under my tree, Reeds delivered a corrected proxy for Christmas!

Santa has finally been good to Reeds (REED) shareholders.

I’m tacking notification of the corrected proxy as a sign that Founder/CEO, Christopher Reed might be at the start of a new attitude toward  SEC rules and corporate gReed's Mugovernance, I changed my vote. I voted for Mr. Reed, the auditors, my own proposal to require a majority vote to elect directors and against the rest of the board and the “incentive” stock option plan. The incentive plan lack specificity.

Of course, my proxy didn’t magically appear under my Christmas tree. Reeds Inc. had to pay to have the link to their revised proxy sent out by Broadridge to brokers and banks all over the country. After being reminded several times, Reeds finally did the right thing. Unfortunately, their reluctance and delay necessitated postponing their annual meeting for more than a week but, despite the additional cost to company and shareholders (including me), it is good to see our company now following the law. Continue Reading →

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BlackRock: Proxy Score 65

BlackRockBlackRock, Inc. (NYSE:BLK), one of the stocks in my portfolio, provides investment management, risk management and advisory services for institutional and retail clients worldwide. Their annual meeting is coming up on 5/28/2015. ProxyDemocracy.org had the votes of one fund when I checked on 5/19/2015. I voted with Board recommendations 65% of the time.

View Proxy Statement. Read Warnings below. What follows are my recommendations on how to vote the BlackRock 2015 proxy to enhance corporate governance and long-term value.  Continue Reading →

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Excluding Fossil Fuels Gets Easier

FTSEFTSE Group (“FTSE”), the global index provider, announced the launch of the FTSE Developed ex Fossil Fuels Index Series, an innovative set of benchmark indices that excludes companies linked to exploration, ownership or extraction of (carbon reserves) fossil fuels. This ground-breaking launch is leading the way to implementation of a total exclusion model for fossil fuel-linked stocks, so that excluded enterprises are removed entirely from the Index Series. Continue Reading →

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My Notes from Ceres Conference 2013

Let’s just label these notes as “for entertainment purposes only.” Attending the conference was a real pleasure. Unfortunately, I was too busy catching up with people to take more than impressionistic notes at a few of the discussions. Prepare to be frightened about global climate change and our irresponsibly slow pace addressing the catastrophic consequences we are already beginning to see all around us. Save April 30 and May 1 for Ceres Conference 2014 in Boston. Continue Reading →

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Opportunity for Comment: Sustainability Listing Standards Proposed for Global Stock Exchanges

Yesterday, a group of investors announced a Consultation Paper with recommendations for integrating sustainability disclosure requirements into listing rules for U.S. and global stock exchanges.

The draft recommendations were developed by nearly a dozen investors who are part of the Ceres-led Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR). BlackRock, British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, and the AFL-CIO Office of Investment are among those who participated on the INCR Listing Standards Drafting Committee. Continue Reading →

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AFL-CIO Key Votes Survey Results for 2012

Vanguard, Northern Trust, BlackRock and Fidelity scored the lowest among researched funds in supporting AFL-CIO endorsed proxy issues in 2012, according to their 2012 Key Votes Survey. Calvert, Amalgamated Bank, McMorgan and Bridgeway scored the highest.

On proxy-voting issues at 32 companies the AFL-CIO considers representative of a “worker-owner view of value that emphasizes management accountability and good corporate governance,” Vanguard voted against all 32 proposals; Northern Trust, 28 out of 29; BlackRock, 30 out of 32; and Fidelity, 28 out of 30. Continue Reading →

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UNFI: How I Voted – Proxy Score 17%

United Natural Foods ($UNFI) is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 12/12/2012. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of three funds when I voted on 12/5/2012.  I voted with management only 17% of the time.  View Proxy Statement. Warning: Be sure to vote each item on the proxy. Any items left blank will be voted in favor of management’s recommendations. (See Don’t Let Companies Change Shareholders’ Blank Votes) Continue Reading →

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Shareholder Activism: Stanford Rock Center for Corporate Governance Series – Part 3 of 3

Evan, Abe, Mason

This was the last of a three part overview of shareholder activism, beginning with the history and an overview of the key players in the space; continuing with a behind-the-scenes look at non-contentious shareholder engagement and how its impacting companies and the market; and ending with this session on Contested Situations: Proxy Fights, PR wars and activist defense. Continue Reading →

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Corporate Directors Forum 2012 – Part 1: Shareholder Hot Topics

These are some relatively quick notes that I’m sharing from the Corporate Directors Forum 2012, held on the beautiful campus of the University of San Diego, January 22-24, 2012. Since I am busy with no-action requests this proxy season (especially proxy access proposals), this post may be a cryptic… not complete sentences bt hopefully mor intelligible thN txt msgN. Continue Reading →

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Edkins Takes Top CorpGov Slot at BlackRock

Michelle Edkins will take over from Abe Friedman as BlackRock’s Global Head of Corporate Governance and Responsible Investment.

Friedman, who was a founding partner of proxy firm Glass Lewis, where he was chief policy officer and general counsel, has decided to leave BlackRock. He is believed to be considering launching a new governance focused activist fund.

BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has more than $3.5trn in assets under management and over $200bn in responsible investment mandates. (BlackRock names new global corporate governance and RI head, Responsible Investor, 3/11/2011)

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