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How ESG Considerations Can Drive Voting at the Board Level

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The Council of Institutional Investor’s spring conference for 2018 – held this week in Washington D.C. at the Omni Shoreham Hotel – was packed with member-hosted panels, where nearly 400 of the top investment professional, regulators, and corporate governance experts gathered together to share their insights and engage in forward-looking discussions on how to drive a multi-stakeholder approach to responsible investment over the long-term.

Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute (SWFI) had the opportunity to attend several breakout sessions, including one presented by Maryland-based Institutional Shareholder Services that sought to address one of the most pressing challenges facing institutional investors today: How can environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria help drive voting at the board level? Moderated by Georgina Marshall, Head of Global Research at ISS, panelists provided a diverse array of perspectives on how to harness ESG considerations as an effective decision-making tool.

Player-Coach Model

For Bonnie Saynay, Global Head of Responsible Investments at Invesco, fostering an environment conducive to communication with investment teams using a “player-coach” model is critical. Moreover, Saynay warned investors of thinking too broadly on ESG considerations, and to instead focus in on the criteria that is most important to them as an organization, and to then tailor their stewardship practices to match those priorities: “If everything is important, nothing is important,” she said.

Clare Payne, head of corporate governance for North America at Legal & General Investment Management, highlighted the importance of procuring the latest ranking data from a number of different providers, as well as how to develop one’s own internal system for scoring so as to cut through the clutter and provide a contextualized framework for making investment decisions on your own terms.

Remuneration is the name of the game for Robbie Miles, Vice President and ESG analyst at Allianz Global Investors. Amid the ever broadening scope of influence that responsible investment commands, Miles urged attendees to work with their managers on mandates that link compensation to the long-term performance of the fund, as well as long-term holding periods.

Wrapping up the panel was Stu Dalheim, Vice President of Shareholder Advocacy at Calvert Research Management, advocated for diversity at the board level across a number of different metrics – including ethnicity, gender, and professional backgrounds – in order to reflect the reality of their client base, as well as provide an apparatus for robust debate and adaptation in an ever-changing business environment.

Saudi Arabia Sends Second Installment of Aid to Pakistan

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On December 14, 2018, Pakistan received its second installment of the US$ 3 billion in aid promised from Saudi Arabia on October 23, 2018. The US$ 1 billion given on December 14th boosted the foreign reserves of the State Bank of Pakistan, which went from US$ 7.2 billion to US$ 8.2 billion. The first installment was given on November 23, 2018. The last installment is expected to occur in January 2019.

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White House Nominates Heath Tarbert for CFTC Chairman

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The White House announced Heath P. Tarbert will be nominated to serve as Commissioner and Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Tarbert currently serves as Assistant Secretary for International Markets at the U.S. Treasury Department. Before joining the U.S. Treasury, Tarbert was a Partner at law firm Allen & Overy. Tarbert was confirmed by the U.S. Senate for his current Treasury post at 87 (yes) to 8 (no).

Upon Senate confirmation, Tarbert’s CFTC term would start on April 14, 2019 and last for five years. Tarbert is taking over from J. Christopher Giancarlo whose term ends in April 2019. Tarbert will need a U.S. Senate confirmation to take the head CFTC post.

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KIA Could Sell Stake in North Sea Energy Business

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The Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), through its unit Wren House Investment Management, is nearing a deal to sell a 40% stake in its North Sea energy business to JPMorgan Asset Management. In July 2018, KIA closed on a deal to acquire oil and gas pipeline firm North Sea Midstream Partners from ArcLight Capital.

More details to follow –

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