Luis Davila's Weblog


Shareholder Activism in Current Economic Times

Dear friends,

 

It has been a long time! Lately I have been doing a lot of work on moving assets to socially responsible investments and practices. I think this is a timely issue given the current uncertainty in the financial markets. University and foundation endowment managers have especially moved to strategies such as proxy voting, shareholder activism, and mission and program-related investments. There has been a significant movement to “green” mutual funds and pensions. The climate crisis has definitely played a role in all of this, but great investment opportunities in green tech industries also encouraged investors to put money in these sectors.

Lately, I have been looking for ways to become a more active shareholder, thus getting more involved with my investment portfolio. One of the things I did was to move certain funds to a retail brokerage account. I decided to use Scottrade.com as my broker, and thus far things have been going great. They even offer a referral program for new customers (you get 7 free trades – worth $7 each). My referral code is: VTXS2895. I encourage you think about getting into the market, and start advocating for strong regulation within corporations (especially banks) to avoid future meltdowns. If you do, don’t forget to use the code!!

Cheers,

Luis



Obama and the Apollo Project

Hi everyone! It has been a while since I posted to the blog. I have been really busy and doing some traveling for work. Nevertheless, after watching last night’s debate I had a definite urge to start blogging again!

I don’t want to comment on the bickering between the candidates… For that go to Politico.com

Instead, I wanted to write about the most interesting subject (in my opinion) that came out of the debate; a clear remark by Obama supporting  an Apollo Project-like presidential initiative to support renewable energies and a global economy based on green jobs. This would include a dramatic increase of funding for R&D in overcoming the technology gap when it comes to energy resources.

Interestingly enough, I went to a meeting earlier this week with the Breakthrough Institute discussing recent findings published in a Nature Magazine on how the IPCC understimated the technological advances needed to stabilize carbon-dioxide emissions.

The presenters at my meeting focused on the need to mobilize the US in a massive technology innovation effort, like the rebuilding of Europe after World War II, the Manhattan Project and the Apollo Project. Michael Shellenberger, famous with Ted Nordhaus for proclaiming the Death to Environmentalism, has been promoting this concept as well, especially as it fits the idea of reframing the discourse on environmentalism to a more inclusive and broader movement for all progressives. All of this is very much influenced by George Lakoff’s work on framing language focus on strenghts and not on policy/wonky confrontational prescriptions (a la “bread and butter” Democrats).

The other side of this Apollo Project-type effort involves an honest partnership with groups that have not been fully engaged in the renewable energy discussion in the past, such as unions, environmental justice groups, people of faith, etc. An interesting group that is trying to bridge this is Green for All which tries to “build an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.”

The point with all of this is that at my recent meeting, I specifically asked if anyone was speaking to the presidential candidates about all of this stuff, and no one really knew… Based on Obama’s remarks last night, it seems that someone is! Let’s see how it works out!



Fidelity promoting genocide??

A couple of days ago I received a notice from Fidelity Investments letting me know that because of my 401k, I had the opportunity to vote on the upcoming motions to be introduced during the next board of directors meeting. The notice says that the board of directors suggests that as partial owner of a fund that invests internationally, I should vote to approve a motion to include new board members and another one that reduces the size of the quorum. Incredibly enough, the board of Fidelity Investments suggests that I vote against a motion that bans Fidelity from investing in countries that are engaged in genocide. Whaaat? You read it right! Fidelity Investments wants me to support their practice of investing in countries (like Sudan) that promote genocide. This is crazy!

I did some research and it seems that Fidelity is investing on Chinese oil companies (such as PetroChina) that are operating in Sudan, which provide funding to the Sudanese government, which supports the Arab militias wreaking havoc in Darfur.  Activists have started organize against Fidelity, and have already started campaigns to push Fidelity into responsible investments and out of Sudan (see http://fidelityoutofsudan.googlepages.com/). 

I know that I will vote against Fidelity Investments on this, and hope that others consider doing this as well (for more information on how you can get involved check out: http://investorsagainstgenocide.googlepages.com/shareholderresolutions). I am also researching ways to roll out my 401k out of Fidelity into a private IRA, because I can’t believe that in 2008 we still have companies blatantly refusing to work responsibly. 



Youth and Social Enterprise

I am currently involved in a social enterprise fellowship called Startinbloc. For those of you who have not heard of this organization, it “educates, empowers and connects emerging leaders to drive positive social change across sectors.” It does so through intensive fellowship programs that provide prospective social entrepreneurs with the tools to become effective in their quest to achieve the so-called “triple-bottom line.”

This type of program also encourages a peer community of social entrepreneurs who share best practices and provide support while in the process of launching a social venture.

As part of the fellowship I was given a business problem that I need to resolve with a group of colleagues, similar to a management consulting assignment. Most specifically, I’m helping a social enterprise develop an effective volunteer program. I hope that my previous experiences at Junior Achievement and coordinating Global Youth Service Day will be helpful!