Questions

These are some of the questions that came up while reading through the minutes of the East Sussex County Council Pension Fund Investment Panel. If people have more questions please email them to esccpensionfund@gmail.com and they will be added here. If people have answers to these questions, they will also be added here.

See the minutes, timeline and analysis of the Pension Fund in the headers above.

Questions

* What was the County Council policy on investment in South Africa as mentioned on 25 June 1987?

ANSWER from FOI request: “There is no recorded information held by the County Council regarding restrictions that either were or were not made in the 1980s and 1990s by the East Sussex County Council Pension Fund on investments in South Africa.

“Nothing is held electronically and, as part of the normal records retention schedule process, any written records dating back to the 80s and 90s that may have been able to assist you have since been destroyed.”

* To what extent have the Fund Managers monitored companies environmental and ethical performance as first mentioned on 24 April 1997? What evidence exists for this?

* To what extent have they pursued an ‘active shareholder approach’ (which was first endorsed on 31 July 1997)? What impact have they had by pursuing this approach? Is there any evidence of changing companies behaviour or of them adopting “best ethical and environmental principles” because of it?

* On April 24 1997, it is mentioned that a letter will be written to the Directors of Shell “explaining the Panel’s position and its support for the underlying objectives of the proposed shareholder resolution.” Shell is one of the biggest oil companies in the world and is responsible for a very large amount of environmental destruction. How would writing a letter to them change their primary purpose of profit maximisation on behalf of their shareholders at whatever cost? It also mentions monitoring “the company’s environmental performance.” Has the Panel monitored the company’s environmental performance? What evidence exists for this? Has monitoring the company’s environmental performance changed the companies behaviour in any way?

* Have the fund managers reported, as mentioned on 30 May 2000, “regularly to the Panel on areas of concern they have identified and raised in discussion with companies?” What impact has that had – if any – on the pension fund?

* Have the Fund Managers recorded, as mentioned on 1 August 2000, “the votes at Company annual meetings in their quarterly reports”?

* How can the fund managers effectively monitor companies when “the majority of companies do not announce the results of voting at annual meetings”? (17 November 2000)

* What are the “socially responsible investment policy statements” for all of the Fund’s equity investment managers? (26 April 2001)

* In July 2003, it was mentioned that “Further consideration will be given to corporate governance reporting by Fund Managers and to the ‘ACTIVISM’ concept in paragraph 3.8 at a future Panel meeting.” What is the ‘activism’ concept in paragraph 3.8 and how does it work?

* Has the Fund ever been a member of Local Authorities Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF), as was suggested on 29 April 2004? If yes, has that had any effect on how the fund operates? If no, why not?

* How much are the fund managers currently paid per annum to manage the pension funds? (see 9 October 1986 for fees back then)

* Why is the fund investing in arms and tobacco corporations when we know what they are doing? How can you stop an arms corporation from making arms or a tobacco corporation from making tobacco? An ‘active shareholder’ approach will never change that. If that is the case, why does the Pension fund insist on sticking with an ‘active shareholder approach’? (see Analysis of minutes for more on this)

* On 9th October 1986 it is mentioned that annual general meetings are not attended. On 27 April 1995, the committee resolved “to authorise the Fund Managers to exercise the Fund’s shareholder’s votes on a discretionary basis in accordance with the interests of the Fund, subject to any specific instructions on a particular issue. The Fund Managers have agreed to report at each quarterly meeting, on an exceptions basis, any abstentions or contrary votes during the quarter.” What percentage of AGMs were attended and voted on by the Fund Managers? Are Annual General Meetings currently attended by the Sub-Committee or its’ fund managers? If yes, do they vote on issues? If no, why not? If they are not currently attended or voted on (or only sometimes attended or voted on), how can the Committee have an effective ‘active shareholder’ approach?

* Has the introduction of the Statement of Investment Principles (SIP) in May 2000 changed the behaviour of the fund?

* How do you get a copy of the minute book which is referred to throughout the minutes? Can that also be put online? Will it need a FOI request to gain access to it? There is lots of other information that these minutes do not have, including information and reports from other relevant committees. For example, in April 1987, it was stated that “the County Treasurer reported that the County Council, at the meeting on 3rd March, 1987, referred back the report on South Africa to the Policy and Resources Committee for further consideration.” How do you get hold of all other relevant information?

* Why has it needed Freedom of Information requests to release the minutes? Why is it – and other information about the Fund – not made public and put on the East Sussex County Councils website so that everyone can easily look at it?