August 12, 2013
Investors Renew Call for Genocide-Free Investing at ING
by Robert Kropp
More than a year has passed since a majority of shareowners supported a resolution sponsored by
Investors Against Genocide, but the financial services firm continues to refuse to implement a
genocide-free investment policy.
In May, the divestment of the financial services company ING US was completed by its
Netherlands-based parent with an initial public offering (IPO). ING US also announced that it
would be rebranded as Voya Financial. Thus far, however, the rebranding of ING does not appear to
signal a fresh start for the company in at least one important sense. Its management has declined
to go along with the request from a majority of shareowners in one of its funds that it implement a
genocide-free investing policy.
Last June, a resolution filed at the
ING Emerging Countries Fund, requesting that it "institute procedures to prevent holding
investments in companies that, in the judgment of the Board, substantially contribute to genocide
or crimes against humanity," won 59.25% of votes. Only 10.8% of the fund's shareowners voted
against the proposal.
For years, Investors Against Genocide (IAG) has engaged
with mutual funds in its effort to prevent corporate funding of the genocide waged by the
government of Sudan in Darfur. Abetted by payments from oil companies doing business there, the
Sudanese government is responsible for civilian deaths that have been estimated at more than 2.5
Among IAG's significant accomplishments have been agreements by the Teachers
Insurance and Annuity Association - College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) and American Funds
to divest their holdings in Asian state-owned oil companies whose significant operations in Sudan
help fund the campaign of genocide there. But according to IAG, ING has stated tat it will not
implement a genocide-free investing policy because with the merger of two of its emerging markets
funds the Emerging Countries Fund no longer exists.
ING released its third quarter
earnings report last week, and IAG and other shareowner activists took the occasion to renew their
call for a genocide-free investing policy at the company. “Human rights due diligence makes sense
from both a moral and a governance risk perspective,” Laura Berry, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
(ICCR), said. “ING’s shareholders have made it clear they expect these assurances in the form
of a genocide-free portfolio.”
“This year marks ten years of the genocide in Darfur,”
says Eric Cohen, Chairperson of IAG. “Yet ING US continues to invest in PetroChina, a company
widely recognized as the largest business partner of the government of Sudan.”
majority of Americans want their investments to be genocide-free,” added Cohen, citing a 2010 KRC
Research report that found 88% of Americans want their mutual funds to be genocide-free.
Speaking before Congress in 2010, Cohen stated, “Research shows that the vast majority of
Americans are opposed to having their hard-earned savings tied to genocide. Nonetheless, because
most individuals entrust their savings to mutual funds, millions of Americans are investing,
unknowingly, inadvertently, and against their will, in companies funding genocide.”
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