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Transparency Still Remains Elusive for Most Sovereign Wealth Funds

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Jose Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos

This article was contributed by the Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA).

Despite the obvious developments that Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWF) have brought both to the global economy and their home countries, there can be no denying that the term SWF is often met with suspicion and negative attention. There is a plethora of reasons why the growth and significance of SWFs and their influence on global capital markets has attracted these misgivings. This sentiment is certainly understandable in a world still trying to come to terms with the rapid pace of globalisation. However, what is unforgiveable is that much of the negative sentiment directed towards SWFs is entirely of their own making. Despite many notable exceptions and attempts by industry bodies to introduce standards and guidelines, such as the SWFIs Linaburg-Maduell Transparency Index and the IMFs Santiago Principles, many SWFs are still accused of operating with a lack of investment transparency and do not come close to meeting acceptable standards of corporate governance. Unfortunately, the actions of some tarnish the image of all SWFs.

This is a situation that clearly must be addressed for the long-term good of all SWFs; it is not enough for our industry to just sit back and accept this situation as a given. This is why the Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA), the newly launched sovereign wealth fund, wholly owned by the Republic of Angola, pledged at its official launch in Luanda to make transparency the bedrock of its foundation and to strive to set a benchmark for all Sovereign Wealth Funds operating in the region. Whilst the Fund continues to finalise its Investment Strategy and Social Charter, the Board of Directors has understood that it must start to evidence the commitment to transparency for it not to be seen as an empty promise. This is why the Fund has taken the bold step of publishing key disclosure milestones, which it is committed to meeting in 2013 and 2014. The publication of these milestones is just the first stage in the Fund’s absolute commitment to being fully transparent and accountable to the people of Angola and to the social and economic development of the country.

In addition to meeting these disclosure milestones, the Fund is also committed to providing regular updates to international markets on material events, such as major investments, selection of external advisors and other significant developments.

Overseeing all of these commitments to transparency and accountability is a three-member Board of Directors and an independent Advisory Council, which includes: the Minister of Finance; the Minister of Economy; the Minister of Planning and the Governor of the National Bank of Angola. The Fund’s performance will also be regularly assessed by the Angolan government’s Fiscal Council, providing additional independent oversight.

The Fund is fully aware that these steps alone are not going to assuage the concerns of all; however, they are an extremely important part of the process, a process that the FSDEA hopes to lead by example through addressing some of the negative perceptions that the industry faces.

FSDEA DISCLOSURE MILESTONES

  • First quarter 2013 – Publication of the FSDEA Social Charter (the Charter will address a number of key social challenges faced by Angolans)
  • First quarter 2013 – Publication of the Government approved FSDEA Investment Policy
  • Second quarter 2013 – The appointment of internationally recognized independent auditors
  • Third quarter 2013 – The FSDEA mid-year update to include executive commentary on investment activities
  • First quarter 2014 – The FSDEA annual report
  • First quarter 2014 – First Linaburg-Maduell Transparency Index FSDEA rating
  • Third quarter 2014 – The FSDEA mid-year update to include executive commentary on investment activities

LAPFF Explores Direct Real Estate Investing

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The Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions (LAFPP), a smaller pension compared to its larger peers such as the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, is considering forming a direct real estate investment strategy that would be managed internally. LAPFF staff requested the pension’s real estate consultant The Townsend Group to explore the feasibility of creating an in-house real estate managed portfolio.

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Could Russian Government Opt for Some Cryptocurrencies over Treasuries?

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The problem with fiat money is that it is backed by governments and countries, subject to the whims of policymakers versus a tangible item like gold. Russia has sold nearly US$ 100 billion worth of Treasury bills, bought gold, yuan, and other non-U.S. dollar currencies, and saved a significant allocation that may be earmarked for Bitcoin. These moves are intended to help Russia evade U.S. sanctions. Vladislav Ginko, an economist at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, noted that the government is working to “protect its national interests” since fewer U.S. dollars are expected to flow into the country in exchange for oil and gas. Ginko estimates the crypto investment at US$ 10 billion. If enacted, Bitcoin could spike on the purchase. Purchases could begin at any time. The Central Bank of Russia has not yet discussed its intentions. However, six months after making any financial transactions, the bank publishes them. If Russia were to carry out the plan, it would swallow over 15 % of the world’s Bitcoin.

Financial technology companies continue to built out platforms to service institutional clients. For example, San Francisco-based Anchorage, cryptocurrency custody service, raised US$ 17 million in a Series A round that was led by Andreessen Horowitz and joined by Khosla Ventures, Max Levchin (co-founder of PayPal), Elad Gil, Mark McCombe of Blackrock (Senior Managing Director, Head of the Americas region), and AngelList’s Naval Ravikant.

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PSP Investments Allocates Capital to Specialty Insurance Brokerage

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Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments) made an investment into Newport Beach, California-based Alliant Insurance Services, Inc. In addition, funds managed by Stone Point Capital LLC also made an investment into Alliant Insurance Services. Post-transaction, funds managed by Stone Point Capital LLC will remain Alliant’s largest institutional shareholders while the company’s management and producers will continue to own the majority of the firm.

Alliant Insurance Services provides property and casualty, workers’ compensation, employee benefits, surety, and financial products and services to clients nationwide, including public entities, tribal nations, healthcare, energy, law firms, real estate, construction, and other industry groups.

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