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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.

SocialFunds.com -- 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 million.

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.”

“The vast 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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