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the consideration of environmental and social risks and opportunities in assessing potential investments, was rescinded by Secretary Perez last October, but the shareholder rights bulletin has remained unaddressed.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.
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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