IRS Releases New Round of Regs for Opportunity Zone Funds (ThinkAdvisor)

https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2019/04/17/irs-releases-new-round-of-regs-for-opportunity-zone-funds/

The Treasury Department has released a new round of proposed regulations governing opportunity zone funds that answers several key questions that have kept potential investors and fund operators on the sidelines.

The zones in which the funds invest are either in or adjacent to depressed communities, and there are over 8,700 spread throughout the U.S. To date, most of the early opportunity zone funds are focused on real estate developments, but the tax benefit is also available for other types of businesses opportunity in the zone.

Six Trends in College and University Endowments (CFA Enterprising Investor)

https://blogs.cfainstitute.org/investor/2019/04/03/six-trends-in-college-and-university-endowments/

What trends are influencing endowment investing in today’s market?

Among larger institutions, college endowments have been at the forefront of SRI and ESG investing…more than one in four colleges engages in some form of SRI. This could take the form of traditional negative screens or restrictions among faith-based organizations, ESG, shareholder activism, or impact investing. Parsing the data by assets, we find nearly 60% of these institutions apply some form of ESG criteria. 

Global Sustainable Investments Rise 34 Percent to $30.7 Trillion (Bloomberg)

https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2019-04-01/global-sustainable-investments-rise-34-percent-to-30-7-trillion

Global socially responsible investments grew by 34 percent to $30.7 trillion over the past two years, lifted by Japanese pension funds, retail investors everywhere and broad, growing concern about climate change.

Money managers around the globe said clients were increasingly asking for sustainable strategies and that climate change became a leading issue for investors this year. Retail investors bought up more ethical funds, according to the report, and now account for about 25 percent of assets, up from 20 percent in 2016.

ESG investing in 401(k)s faces fiduciary, regulatory questions (BenefitsPro)

https://www.benefitspro.com/2019/03/19/esg-investing-in-401ks-faces-fiduciary-regulatory-questions/

Sustainable investing is on a tear.

According to Morningstar research, sustainable investment funds, which the research firms defines as those that use environmental, social and corporate governances (ESG) criteria as measurements for scoring the societal impact of investing in a public company, saw record flows of $5.5 billion in 2018.

Last year marked the third consecutive year of record flows to ESG-premised mutual funds, which increased 50% to 351 offerings in 2018.

Painstaking Progress for Funds That Aim to Do Good (WSJ)

https://www.wsj.com/articles/painstaking-progress-for-funds-that-aim-to-do-good-11553166000

DWS Group Inc., the asset-management business of Deutsche Bank AG , recently raised $843 million in a single day for a new fund that tries to invest in the best corporate citizens in the U.S.

It was one of the most successful exchange-traded-fund debuts of all time, and especially noteworthy in the slow-growing corner of the market devoted to responsible investing.

For years, asset managers have been trumpeting a new dawn for strategies that deliver competitive returns along with a clear conscience. In the past year alone, firms including Vanguard Group, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and BlackRock Inc.’s iShares have introduced more than a dozen ETFs that use environmental, social and governance scores to pick stocks and bonds.

But investors have been slow to buy into so-called ESG funds. The triumphant inaugural run of DWS Group’s Xtrackers MSCI USA ESG Leaders Equity ETF may signal a step change in investor participation.

CFA Institute Announces Position on ESG Integration

https://www.cfainstitute.org/-/media/documents/article/position-paper/cfa-institute-position-statement-esg.ashx?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTTJRMFpqa3daRFppT1RVNCIsInQiOiJTRlVuN1BhZktXY3N4dUFFdW1hNWhkMjN5UVlEZmltbjdKRFJORGdVWURZWFowUlhZY3Mxa0Z0UndoTEZpeGJ6UEZIb2U2XC91eCtwY2ZqZ2NYRXo0K25cL1lZcnZrd2MyeTVOS2JWNzM1ZHYxcTBZaTF5bFpqWDZTZVZxd01nbUhQIn0%3D

CFA Institute consistently monitors key debates and evolving issues concerning the role and application of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) information in the investment management process. More thorough consideration of ESG fac- tors by financial professionals can improve the fundamental analysis they undertake and ultimately the investment choices they make.

CFA Institute is specifically focused on the quality and comparability of the ESG information provided by corporate issuers and how to integrate various ESG factors into the investment selection process.

The positions below reflect the organizational views of CFA Institute and are intended to guide understanding of ESG.

Investors and their managers climb the steep ESG learning curve (FT)

https://www.ft.com/content/bc1e0467-f9e6-384b-a6df-cd42dc212109


“On the road from the City of Skepticism I had to pass through the Valley of Ambiguity,” said Adam Smith, founding father of modern economics. This sums up the current state of investing in the environmental, social and governance sphere. A survey last November by the Dutch Association of Investors for Sustainable Development, which covered 90 per cent of Dutch pension assets, shows that most investment managers see the UN-sponsored goals as an opportunity.

Despite this, two-thirds have no formal policy to pursue them and only a fifth have brought their activities into alignment. For the rest, a key obstacle is the lack of a robust template, with consistent definitions and reliable data, that permits statistical modelling. Additionally, establishing a line of sight between, say, climate change and investment outcomes remains a complex task and requires expertise that many Dutch pension plans have yet to acquire, despite their reputation as savvy investors.

The good news is that there are positive straws in the wind.

The Truth about Big Oil and Climate Change (Economist)

https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/02/09/the-truth-about-big-oil-and-climate-change

In America, the world’s largest economy and its second biggest polluter, climate change is becoming hard to ignore. Extreme weather has grown more frequent. In November wildfires scorched California; last week Chicago was colder than parts of Mars. Scientists are sounding the alarm more urgently and people have noticed—73% of Americans polled by Yale University late last year said that climate change is real. The left of the Democratic Party wants to put a “Green New Deal” at the heart of the election in 2020. As expectations shift, the private sector is showing signs of adapting. Last year around 20 coal mines shut. Fund managers are prodding firms to become greener. Warren Buffett, no sucker for fads, is staking $30bn on clean energy and Elon Musk plans to fill America’s highways with electric cars.

Yet amid the clamour is a single, jarring truth. Demand for oil is rising and the energy industry, in America and globally, is planning multi-trillion-dollar investments to satisfy it. No firm embodies this strategy better than ExxonMobil, the giant that rivals admire and green activists love to hate. As our briefing explains, it plans to pump 25% more oil and gas in 2025 than in 2017. If the rest of the industry pursues even modest growth, the consequence for the climate could be disastrous.

IOSCO Statement on Disclosure of ESG Matters by Issuers

https://www.iosco.org/library/pubdocs/pdf/IOSCOPD619.pdf

The International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) is this month publishing a statement setting out the importance for issuers of considering the inclusion of environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters when disclosing information material to investors’ decisions.

The statement does not supersede existing laws, regulations, guidance or standards or relevant regulatory or supervisory frameworks in specific jurisdictions, or any IOSCO Principles.

I. Introduction

As underlined by IOSCO in its Objectives and Principles of Securities Regulation, securities regulation has three key objectives: protecting investors, ensuring that markets are fair, efficient, and transparent, and reducing systemic risk. IOSCO Principle 16 states that issuers should provide “full, accurate, and timely disclosure of financial results, risk, and other information which is material to investors’ decisions.” With regard to this Principle, IOSCO emphasizes that ESG matters, though sometimes characterized as non-financial, may have a material short-term and long-term impact on the business operations of the issuers as well as on risks and returns for investors and their investment and voting decisions.

II. Developments in the disclosure of ESG information

Disclosure of ESG information in the market has increased in recent years. Examples of ESG matters that issuers are disclosing include environmental factors related to sustainability and climate change, social factors including labor practices and diversity, and general governance- related factors that have a material impact on the issuer’s business.

PGE: The First Climate-Change Bankruptcy, Probably Not the Last (WSJ)

http://PG&E: The First Climate-Change Bankruptcy, Probably Not the Last

PG&E Corp.’s PCG 13.68% bankruptcy could mark a business milestone: the first major corporate casualty of climate change. Few people expect it will be the last.

California’s largest utility was overwhelmed by rapid climatic changes as a prolonged drought dried out much of the state and decimated forests, dramatically increasing the risk of fire. On Monday, PG&E said it planned to file for Chapter 11 protection by month’s end, citing an estimated $30 billion in liabilities and 750 lawsuits from wildfires potentially caused by its power lines.

The PG&E bankruptcy could be a wake-up call for corporations, forcing them to expand how they think about climate-related risks, management consultants and other experts said.

Previously, companies mainly worried over risks from new governmental regulations related to climate change, said Christophe Brognaux, a managing director at Boston Consulting Group. The PG&E case makes clear that companies also have to worry about sudden, and potentially unexpected, impacts to their core assets and liabilities, he added. 

“Physical risks have only recently manifested themselves. This is a fairly new development,” said Bruce Usher, a professor at Columbia University’s business school who teaches a course on climate and finance. “If you are not already considering extreme weather and other climatic events as one of many risk factors affecting business today, you are not doing your job.”