Guns, cigarettes and prisons: Are Canada’s pension fund investments ethical? – National


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OTTAWA – The federal Liberals are going to bat for the Canada Pension Plan Funding Board (CPPIB) amid moral issues over its funding portfolio.

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“We count on the CPPIB, like different Crown firms, to reside as much as the very best requirements of ethics and behavior and that’s, the truth is, precisely what it’s doing,” stated Finance Minister Invoice Morneau throughout query interval Monday within the Home of Commons.

The New Democrats challenged Morneau this week to weigh in on new moral questions surrounding the funding portfolio of the arms-length CPPIB – which manages a whole lot of billions of price of Canadians’ retirement financial savings.

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NDP MP Charlie Angus pressed Morneau for his opinion on CPPIB’s holdings in a tobacco firm, a navy weapons producer and corporations that run non-public American prisons. The jail operators and their services are seen as beneficiaries of the Trump administration’s controversial detention of asylum seekers and, in some instances, their youngsters.

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On Monday, Angus demanded Morneau clarify whether or not he thought CPPIB’s investments in “cigarette firms and privatized prisons” met a “credible normal of company funding” for the CPP.

Morneau replied that the pension supervisor, which oversees greater than $366 billion of CPP’s web property, lives as much as the “highest requirements of ethics and behavior.”

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Spoiler alert: The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of political statements culminating in a rating of accuracy on a scale of “no baloney” to “filled with baloney” (full methodology under).

Morneau’s assertion by itself earns a ranking of “some baloney” – it’s principally correct however extra data is required. Right here’s why.


CPPIB’s holdings in non-public U.S. jail operators CoreCivic Inc. and the GEO Group Inc. grew significantly between August 2017 and August 2018.

Over that interval, the variety of GEO Group shares held by CPPIB elevated almost 13-fold to a worth of US$four.2 million, whereas its shares of CoreCivic greater than doubled to a worth of US$1.76 million, in response to U.S. Securities and Alternate Fee filings. CPPIB’s holdings within the jail firms have been made public in a report final week by the Guardian newspaper.

CoreCivic and GEO Group are anticipated to obtain main enterprise boosts due to the Trump administration’s method to coping with asylum seekers. The coverage has led to the U.S. authorities’s extremely contentious detention of fogeys and their youngsters.

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Michel Leduc, CPPIB’s world head of public affairs and communications, stated the shares within the two jail firms have been acquired by way of an algorithm that captures greater than three,00zero firms as a approach to diversify the fund’s portfolio.

“I wish to be crystal clear about this: no CPPIB worker decided … to spend money on these two firms,” he stated in an interview, earlier than noting that many mutual funds and pension plans in Canada seemingly comprise shares within the jail corporations as properly.

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He added that CPPIB is an energetic supervisor in its main investments in areas like ports, electrical energy grids, toll roads and procuring centres. However the fund tends to be passive relating to its smaller holdings in publicly traded firms.

As a result of CPPIB’s dimension – it’s one of many 10 largest retirement funds on the planet – the worth of the jail firm shares make up solely zero.zero01 per cent of its complete investments, he stated.

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The group, Leduc argued, takes satisfaction in its very excessive requirements relating to moral, environmental and social concerns. CPPIB additionally follows a strict coverage of solely investing in companies that might be lawful in the event that they operated in Canada.

“The CPP Funding Board is seen around the globe as one of the vital moral institutional traders on the planet,” he stated.

After Morneau defended the CPPIB on Monday within the Home of Commons, Angus criticized him the next day: “Might the finance minister clarify what’s it about privatized American jail camps that he thinks represents any sort of moral funding normal?”

In his response Tuesday, Morneau appeared to tone down his place on the matter.

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“All Canadian Crown firms, all Canadian authorities establishments are anticipated to reside as much as the very best requirements of moral behaviour and company governance. That features the Canada Pension Plan Funding Board,” Morneau stated.

“That is vital. We monitor it. We keep on prime of it.”


Many specialists credit score CPPIB for having a really sturdy mannequin relating to accountable investing. However they argue it might go even additional if it actually wished to keep away from making positive aspects from sure sorts of companies.

Tim Nash, a monetary planner and founding father of Good Investing, questions whether or not the for-profit U.S. prisons comply totally with Canadian legal guidelines due to the associated issues round human rights.

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He acknowledges CPPIB is the Canadian chief on sustainable funding insurance policies. However he additionally argues it’s not the very best ranked globally.

“On this particular case, I’d argue there’s a breach of these insurance policies and that, the truth is, they don’t seem to be dwelling as much as these highest requirements with the inclusion of those firms inside the funding portfolio,” stated Nash, who added the controversial nature of those jail operators – and the potential of lawsuits – raises the chance stage of the funding.

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“So far as I can inform relating to CPPIB’s particular funding coverage, they shouldn’t be proudly owning these firms.”

He stated CPPIB might simply alter its method to omit some sorts of firms – with out sacrificing monetary returns.

Lisa Kramer, a College of Toronto finance professor, stated so-called ESG investing rules, that are adopted by CPPIB, are a part of an rising space that’s nonetheless not properly outlined. ESG stands for environmental, social and governance.

“Socially accountable investing is commonly within the eye of the beholder relying on what rules one holds pricey to her personal coronary heart,” stated Kramer, an skilled on behavioural finance.

“It may be very troublesome to undertake an funding technique that makes everyone blissful.”

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Tessa Hebb, a Carleton College skilled on accountable funding, credit CPPIB for having an excellent mannequin of accountable investing.

However Hebb burdened there’s a distinction between accountable investing and moral investing. Accountable investing makes a enterprise case for investments and helps traders keep away from riskier selections.

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Moral requirements, however, are way more subjective, she stated.

“It’s attention-grabbing that Minister Morneau would use the time period ethics,” Hebb stated. “If he had stated that they have been one of many prime accountable traders – completely.”


On this case, Morneau stated CPPIB resides as much as the “highest requirements of ethics and behavior” as he responded to a query about its investments in U.S. jail firms.

However whereas specialists say CPPIB is considered in some ways as a pacesetter in accountable investing, they argue figuring out moral requirements depends upon a person’s views and may fluctuate vastly.

For that cause, Morneau’s assertion charges “some” baloney.


The Baloney Meter is a undertaking of The Canadian Press that examines the extent of accuracy in statements made by politicians. Every declare is researched and assigned a ranking primarily based on the next scale:

No baloney – the assertion is totally correct

A little bit baloney – the assertion is generally correct however extra data is required

Some baloney – the assertion is partly correct however vital particulars are lacking

Loads of baloney – the assertion is generally inaccurate however incorporates parts of reality

Stuffed with baloney – the assertion is totally inaccurate

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