Investors Call on State Dept. to Strengthen U.S. Reporting Requirements on Investment in Burma

(Published on October 5, 2012)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 5, 2012

Greater Transparency and Accountability Needed to Support Responsible Investment

(Washington, D.C.) — Yesterday, 21 institutional investors, asset owners and asset managers with a combined total of more than $407 billion in assets under management submitted a comment to the U.S. State Department on the new Reporting Requirements on Responsible Investment in Burma. The investors support the requirements as a valuable tool, but urge greater transparency and clearer consequences for failure to comply. The State Department issued the reporting requirements in July, in conjunction with the new general licenses permitting investment and the export of financial services to Burma. Until that shift in U.S. policy, Burma had been the subject of U.S. sanctions for more than 15 years. The U.S. and other western governments lifted sanctions in response to the reforms initiated by Burmese President Thein Sein, including the by-elections in April that resulted in the election of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi to Burma’s parliament. Conflict Risk Network, a project of United to End Genocide, coordinated the submission. According to Conflict Risk Network Director Kathy Mulvey, “The reforms in Burma are fragile and reversible. Conflict continues to rage, particularly in resource-rich ethnic areas where investment is most likely. The U.S. government must use these reporting requirements to gather and make public critical information about the operations of U.S. corporations and their impact on human rights, worker rights and the environment. This information is essential for institutional investors to exercise due diligence around their portfolios and engage publicly traded corporations whose shares they own.” Institutional investors have raised concerns about the scope and timing of the relaxation of U.S. sanctions on Burma, including in a May letter to President Obama signed by a dozen investors with more than $100 billion in assets under management. The Conflict Risk Network highlighted the risks of new investment in its April report, Not Open for Business. In addition to Conflict Risk Network, the other investors endorsing the submission are:
  • American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations Reserve Fund
  • Aquinas Associates
  • Boston Common Asset Management
  • Calvert Investments
  • Clean Yield Asset Management
  • Danske Bank
  • Dignity Health
  • Domini Social Investments LLC
  • F&C Asset Management
  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  • Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers
  • Mercy Investment Services, Inc.
  • Miller/Howard Investments, Inc.
  • Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
  • Morgan Stanley Wealth Management
  • Newground Social Investment, SPC
  • The Sustainability Group of Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge
  • Trillium Asset Management, LLC
  • Unitarian Universalist Association
  • Walden Asset Management, a division of Boston Trust & Investment Management
  • Zevin Asset Management, LLC
Investor representatives have provided comments on the reporting requirements and are available for interviews.

COMMENTS BY SIGNERS OF THE JOINT INVESTOR COMMENT ON BURMA REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

“We believe that there are still high risks associated with moving too quickly to invest in Burma and we urge corporations to take a precautionary approach to determine what sort of human rights, corruption, bribery, and environmental risk exposure they would be exposed to as they look at investment opportunities there. Robust reporting guidelines are critical for addressing the real risks investors and companies are still faced with there.” Lauren Compere Managing Director Boston Common Asset Management “Investors expect that U.S. companies operating in Burma will observe appropriate international human rights standards in order to minimize risk and ensure that their operations support the still-fragile transition to democracy. Therefore, the U.S. Government reporting requirements must specify those standards most relevant to the situation in Burma.” Bennett Freeman Senior Vice President, Sustainability Research and Policy Calvert Investments "We believe that reporting requirements would benefit all stakeholders including US companies operating in Burma. These reporting requirements are a critical step toward accountability and are imperative for the state to ensure further public access to critical information such as risk mitigation and information related to MOGE. It will also provide necessary information to investors as well as civil society groups, and enable them to effectively assess and monitor the actual performance and progress of companies." Shin Furuya Vice President, Responsible Investment Research & Engagement Specialist Domini Social Investments LLC “Given the very serious problems across a broad range of issues that have plagued Burma, and the high level of scrutiny that conscious investors and others have applied and will continue to apply to companies there, anyone considering Burma must be prepared to engage in a uniquely high level of due diligence. Anything less would create unacceptable risk to a company's brand, bottom line and shareholders.” Larry Dohrs Vice President Newground Social Investment, SPC

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 Conflict Risk Network (CRN)—a project of United to End Genocide—is a network of institutional investors, financial service providers and related stakeholders calling upon corporate actors to fulfill their responsibility to respect human rights and to take steps that support peace and stability in areas affected by genocide and mass atrocities. CRN’s goal is to increase such behavior by corporate actors and thereby reduce conflict risk. The Save Darfur Coalition and Genocide Intervention Network are now United to End Genocide. The organization remains committed to its work to end the crisis in Darfur and bring peace to all of Sudan as well as to end violence in other areas of mass atrocities. The merger creates the world's largest anti-genocide activist organization, with a membership base of hundreds of thousands of committed activists, an unparalleled nationwide student movement, more than 190 faith-based, advocacy and human rights partner organizations, and a network of institutional investors collectively representing more than $3 trillion in assets under management.

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