Azzad calls for DOL to reinforce shareholder rights for pension plans

FALLS CHURCH, Va., March 22, 2016 — Azzad Asset Management, investment advisor to the Azzad Funds, announced today that it has joined a coalition of socially responsible financial firms in calling for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to rescind a bulletin that undermines the exercise of shareholder rights by fiduciaries.

Organized by the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US SIF), of which Azzad is a member, the campaign is intended to persuade the DOL to explicitly permit retirement plan sponsors to address sustainability concerns by engaging directly with publicly traded companies in which they invest. The group argues that issues such as climate change, human rights abuses, and excessive executive compensation should be addressed by retirement plan fiduciaries in the interest of capturing the long-term socioeconomic benefits that can accrue to plan participants.

In a letter to Labor Secretary Tom Perez, US SIF CEO Lisa Woll states that, “202 institutional investors or money managers representing $1.72 trillion in U.S.-domiciled assets filed or co-filed shareholder resolutions on [environmental, social, and corporate governance] issues at publicly traded companies from 2012 through 2014.” She goes on to argue that, although many asset managers are engaged in active ownership, pension plans are absent because the bulletin in question (29 CFR 2509.08-2) “has had a chilling effect on the exercise of shareholder rights.”

Azzad and its colleagues at US SIF hope to expand on the DOL’s willingness to re-evaluate related guidance on fiduciary issues, specifically the DOL bulletin on Economically Targeted Investments(29 CFR 2509.08-1). That 2008 bulletin, which disfavored the consideration of environmental and social risks and opportunities in assessing potential investments, was rescinded by Secretary Perez last October, but the shareholder rights bulletin has remained unaddressed.

Today’s announcement by Azzad is part of a growing industry trend toward impact investing. US SIF’s Report on US Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing Trends 2014 documents that $6.57 trillion in assets are held today by U.S. institutional investors and investment firms that review the environmental, social and governance practices, risks and opportunities of their investments. This is a 76 percent increase from the 2012 Trends report.

ABOUT AZZAD
Azzad Asset Management, investment advisor to the Azzad Funds and sponsor of the Azzad Ethical Wrap Program, is committed to providing investment services designed to help people enjoy optimum performance without compromising their values. Azzad is a member of the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions, and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. The firm, based outside Washington, D.C., is a registered investment advisor with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Contact: Investment Communications Director Joshua Brockwell, 703-207-7005, ext. 109, joshua@azzad.net; Amina Rubin, 703-207-7005, ext. 120, amina@azzad.net.

Opinions expressed are those of the author or fund manager, are subject to change, are not guaranteed and should not be considered recommendations to buy or sell any security and should not be considered investment advice.

Fund holdings and sector allocations are subject to change and are not a recommendation to buy or sell any security. Click here for Azzad Ethical Fund current top 10 holdings. Click here for the Azzad Wise Capital Fund current top 10 holdings.

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

The Azzad Ethical Fund is non-diversified and may invest a larger percentage of its assets in fewer companies exposing it to more volatility and/or market risk than diversified funds. The Fund may not achieve its objective and/or could lose money on your investment in the Fund. Stock markets and investments in individual stocks can decline significantly in response to issuer, market, economic, political, regulatory, geographical, and other conditions. Investments in mid-cap companies can be more volatile than investments in larger companies. Investments in growth companies can be more sensitive to the company’s earnings and more volatile than the stock market in general. Because the portfolio may invest substantial amount of its asset in issuers located in a single country or in a limited number of countries, it may be more volatile that a portfolio that is more geographically diversified. See the prospectus for more details about risks.

Investments in smaller and medium sized companies involve additional risks such as limited liquidity and greater volatility. Investments in debt securities typically decrease in value when interest rates rise. This risk is usually greater for longer-term debt securities. Investments in lower rated and non-rated securities present a great risk of loss to principal and interest than higher rated securities.

The Azzad Wise Capital Fund is non-diversified with a high concentration of securities in the financial sector which can expose the Fund to more volatility and/or market risk than diversified funds. The Fund may not achieve its objective and/or could lose money on your investment in the Fund. The Fund mainly invests in securities issues by foreign entities which expose the Fund to country specific risks such as market, economic, political, regulatory, geographical, and other risks. The Fund intends to invest in certain instruments that may be illiquid. As a result, if the Fund receives large amount of redemptions, the Fund may be forced to sell such illiquid investments at a significant loss to be able to meet such redemption requests. See the prospectus for more details about risks.

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