It’s time for responsible finance to be required for all investment professionals

The evolution of sustainability-focused investment practices has proceeded much more rapidly since the financial crisis upended financial markets and exposed the cost of unethical and socially detrimental business practices. During this period, research into the financial impacts of sustainability-focus finance has shifted dramatically in relation to the effect of incorporating extra-financial factors. Prior to the crisis, much of the research focused on identifying whether there was a cost to using extra-financial factors whereas since the crisis there is a growing recognition—and empirical evidence to support—the idea that instead of harming performance, responsible finance can enhance it.

One such research, conducted by Arabesque Partners and the University of Oxford in 2014, looked at 190 empirical research studies. 90% of the studies found that “sound sustainability standards lower the cost of capital” and 88% found that solid environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices translated into “better operational performance of firms”. This better operational performance also leads to better stock performance, suggesting that not only does ESG have benefits for firm performance, it is recognized in market valuations as well.

An analysis from Calvert also released last year looks into the effectiveness of incorporating non-financial factors related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) and found that not only do better-rated companies on ESG metrics have better stock performance, the best performing stocks are for a basket of companies whose ESG metrics have improved the most. During 2004 to 2014 they analyzed a hybrid portfolio including both ESG and traditional equities to compare the most improved from those with the greatest decline and found that the performance gap reached nearly 5%. (more…)

Promontory, by settling, bows to realities of legal challenges against regulators

In a swift reversal of its earlier determination to sue the New York State Department of Financial Services, the Promontory Financial Group, a leading consultant to the industry, took what some observers say is the kind of advice it typically offers clients when accused of wrongdoing: settle.

Rather than risk even greater reputational damage during a lengthy court battle – and some speculate that negative fallout from the decision to fight the case could have been a driving force behind the strategy shift — the prominent Washington, D.C.-based firm climbed down from its confrontational strategy on Tuesday, admitting that its actions fell short of the New York regulator’s standards when it investigated possible sanctions violations by Standard Chartered bank.

In addition, Promontory agreed to pay a $15 million fine and accepted a six-month suspension from new consulting projects that require New York state authorization.

“This does show that for firms you can rattle your saber all you want, but you have to settle,” said Peter Henning, professor of law at Wayne State University.

Promontory founder and chief executive Eugene Ludwig showed relief in a statement when the settlement was announced. “We are glad to have resolved this matter,” he said. “We remain committed to quality and integrity in carrying out our work.”

The decision by Promontory to litigate against the New York regulator was at the time viewed by many as a reckless strategy, fraught with considerable risk and little upside benefit. (more…)

Journalist spotlight: Alison Frankel on recent special report

Last week, a Reuters Special Report by Alison Frankel and Jessica Dye revealed how medical-device litigation in the U.S. has lent momentum to a little-known industry: companies that profit from surgeries on poor plaintiffs. After examining cases involving transvaginal mesh, the subject of the biggest onslaught of personal-injury litigation since asbestos, Reuters revealed that some surgical-funding outfits facilitate victims’ surgery by purchasing their medical bills at a deep discount from the surgeon and placing a lien for the full amount against the plaintiffs’ settlements. The liens sometimes spiral to as much as 10 times what private insurers or government programs would pay for the same procedures. In a Reuters Best: Journalist Spotlight Q&A, Alison offers a look at the reporting behind the story.

Q. How did you and Jessica get started on the story?

A. In January, Johnson & Johnson filed a brief claiming that women were being improperly solicited by offshore call centers to join the massive litigation over pelvic mesh. According to J&J, these call centers seemed to have access to some women’s medical records. Others were supposedly telling women that if they lied about their medical history, they could get a $40,000 settlement. Jessica and I both follow products liability litigation closely and neither of us had ever seen allegations like this. We decided to work together to find out everything we could about the litigation over pelvic mesh.

Q. What types of reporting/sourcing were involved? (more…)

Tennis court surfaces – Graphic of the day

Today’s graphic diagrams the make-up of playing surfaces at the four grand slam tennis venues. Follow the best photos as the action happens from the cameras of Reuters award-winning photographers at the 2015 U.S. Open with the Reuters Sports Reel app.

tennis (more…)

Sustainability: It’s personal

In about a month, while the United Nations is meeting in New York to chart a new course in sustainable development, Thomson Reuters will publish a multi-media feature called “7 Reasons the World will be Sustainable”. In fact, most thinking you hear about our planet and its direction these days is all about looming catastrophe. Rising sea levels, ocean acidification, intense storms, and over-population are familiar refrains. Our story will not be another cynical and fashionable view on the dire state of the world.

What we have done instead is propose how we can and will successfully manage these huge challenges. It’s all about solutions. In this sneak-preview excerpt from the feature, we hear from our own Global Head of Corporate Responsibility & Inclusion, Patsy Doerr, about one reason for hope in this bleak landscape (people). We are surrounded by heroism, talent, goodwill and knowledge. With an inclusive approach to capturing the world’s talent and addressing these problems, we can help unlock the paradigm changing power of the individual to change the world.

One of our 7 reasons is “heroes”, and here are some of Patsy’s thoughts:

 

Halal certification is fast-growing hard currency for trade in halal products

Trade is important. Just look at the attention paid to the depreciation of global currencies. The falling Ringgit, the depreciating Chinese renminbi and the newly free-floating Kazakh Tenge. The fight for competitive advantage in trade is impacted significantly by the value of the currency in countries where goods are produced and where they are consumed.

For trade in halal products, there is another unit of currency—the halal certification—which also affects the value of a halal product differently in the country where it was produced (and certified) and where it will ultimately be consumed. The value of the certification for the producer determines how wide the market is for their product. For example, Malaysia, whose halal certification is widely recognized and whose halal exports reached RM 10.8bn ($2.6 billion) in the first quarter of 2015, the halal industry is well connected globally within the Islamic economy for food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. 

The success of Malaysia in capitalizing on the Islamic economy for economic growth has led other countries to seek similar opportunity. Pakistan, which has a small but growing meat export industry, hopes the recently launched Pakistan Halal Authority will improve the ability of meat exporters to be the source of food imports into the Gulf Cooperation Council countries which are geographically close but where much of the meat comes from the far more distant Brazil.  (more…)

Journalist spotlight: Pete Sweeney on the China short seller scoop

china

Last month, Reuters reported exclusively that China is pressing foreign and Chinese-owned brokerages in Hong Kong and Singapore to hand over stock trading records, extending its pursuit of “malicious” short sellers of Chinese stocks to overseas jurisdictions. China’s main share markets, both among the world’s five biggest, have slumped around 30 percent since mid-June. The markets regulator, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), wants the trading records to try to identify those with net short positions who would profit in case of further falls in China-listed shares, according to Reuters sources. In a Reuters Best: Journalist Spotlight Q&A, correspondent Pete Sweeney offers a behind-the-scenes look at how he and Michelle Price landed the scoop.

Q. How did you score this exclusive?

A. This story was an exclusive covering an issue critical to our readers, namely the degree to which China’s attempts to seize control of its collapsing stock markets would impact foreign investors and foreign financial institutions, which are already quite nervous about the nature of Beijing’s intervention. This report showed that the CSRC’s efforts to discover and dissuade short-sellers have moved abroad – which makes some investors holding entirely legal short positions against Chinese assets quite nervous. Other media subsequently attributed the Friday afternoon market correction in Singapore on concerns about this report. What helped us beat the competition was the integration of two reporting efforts. We saw a scoop from the Reuters Chinese language (RCN) service and, through further dogged investigation by Michelle Price in Hong Kong, revealed that in addition to probing Chinese brokerages (which while newsworthy was not startling by itself), the CSRC was also requiring information from foreign brokerages regarding perfectly legal investment behavior, and that this had become a hot topic among communities in Singapore and Hong Kong. Ultimately the Chinese regulator admitted our reports’ accuracy, albeit in a very sideways manner, in a press conference later in the day.

Q. What types of reporting/sourcing were involved?

A. Sourcing came from contacts inside the brokerage communities in Hong Kong and Singapore, both Chinese and foreign.

Q. What was the hardest part about reporting the story? (more…)

Weekly Investment Banking Scorecard

IB scorecard

Highlights:

Summer Slowdown: Pace of Weekly M&A Falls Below $20b for First Time since January 2012

  • Announced worldwide M&A activity tumbled to just over $14 billion so far this week, marking the first weekly period to log under $20 billion in deals since January 2012. Liberty Interactive’s $2.1 billion bid for online retailer Zulily topped the list of weekly deals, a week that was without a deal greater than $5 billion for the first time in 15 weeks. With the addition of the Zulily deal, retail deal making totals $153.6 billion, more than double year-to-date 2014 levels, while financial M&A, bolstered by BB&T Corp’s $1.8 billion bid for National Penn Bancshares, reached $246.6 billion, a 10% increase compared to a year ago and the strongest period for deal making in the sector since 2009.

Cross-Border Deal Making Tops $1 Trillion for First Time Since 2007

  • Pentair PLC’s $1.8 billion bid for US-based Erico Global pushed the level of cross-border mergers and acquisitions to $1.0 trillion, a 29% increase compared to a year- ago and the first year-to-date period to see over $1 trillion in crossborder deal making since 2007. The United States and United Kingdom account for a combined 46% of crossborder targets while, the United States, Netherlands and Canada account for 41% of global cross-border acquirors. Cross-border pharmaceutical M&A accounts for 13% of the global tally so far this year, followed by Oil & Gas with 10% and Chemicals with 8%.

For more info, download the full Investment Banking Scorecard.

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Thomson Reuters Deals Intelligence delivers IB content including quarterly reviews showing trends in M&A and Capital Markets.

How will we feed 9 billion people in 2050?

9 billion bowls

How will we feed 9 billion people in 2050? If we are to meet the hungry demands of our future, we need a revolution in the way we produce and deliver food. Our 9 Billion Bowls multimedia report tells the story of a diverse group of scientists, students, analysts and inventors who are using Big Data and leading edge technologies in entirely new ways to make this happen. Access the full report: 9billionbowls.com

The food chain is broken

On paper, we produce enough food to feed our current population of 7 billion. Yet an estimated 805 million people go to bed hungry each night, and hidden hunger – or micronutrient deficiency – affects an additional 2 billion.

Poverty, political instability, income inequity and overconsumption in some regions of the world all play pivotal roles. But the 9 Billion Bowls report from Thomson Reuters turns its focus on a specific link in the global chain – the production and delivery of food.

It’s here where the greatest challenges – and brightest opportunities – for feeding our planet lie. (more…)

China’s growing appetite for cheese – Graphic of the day

Chinese consumers are developing a palette for non-traditional foods such as pizza and cakes, fueling demand for imported cheese in China. Today’s graphic shows historical and projected sales volume and value of cheese in China, and the same for the annual growth rate of China’s fast food market.

China cheese  (more…)