University council member and Deutsche Bank global transactions head Naomi Flutter refused to comment on any conflict of interest that may arise from the bank’s current “buy” recommendations on two of the stocks being culled by the university: Sandfire Resources and base metals producer Independence Group.
I suspect there is going to be substantial blow back:
The blacklist has raised eyebrows because it goes far beyond the movement to divest fossil fuel stocks to ensnare producers of everyday industrial materials for which there is no ready substitute in sectors that form the backbone of the Australian resources sector.
ANU vice-chancellor Ian Young, the chairman of the Group of Eight richest universities which is spearheading the deregulation of the sector, has refused to release the company profiles compiled by Canberra-based consultant CAER on which its decision was based.
He has declined to elaborate on his original explanation that the seven blacklisted stocks were rated in the bottom quintile for social and environmental responsibility by CAER.
“The ANU should reconsider its approach as a matter of urgency,” Mr Pearson told the Australian Financial Review.
“It has unfairly traduced the reputations of some of Australia’s most important resources companies and that of the resources sector more generally. In doing so, it has been unwilling or unable to provide any justification for its actions.
“This is unacceptable for a publicly funded institution which also benefits from substantial charitable donations and funding support from the very sector it seeks to stigmatise.”
Then there is this from Martin Ferguson:
Former Labor energy minister Martin Ferguson said he was astounded by the ANU decision.
“They’ll have to explain themselves,” he said in Melbourne. “I must say the naming of some of those companies is beyond belief.”
Mr Ferguson, now head of resources at Seven Group and a director of BG group, said he had worked with gas producer Santos – one of ANU’s blacklisted stocks – for many years and could speak to its “very strong commitment to working with the indigenous community . . . understanding of environmental regulation and adherence to best practice”.
“I’d invest in a company such as Santos before I’d invest in a renewable energy company. Santos has got a far brighter future,” he said.
Contrast that with what the ANU Vice-Chancellor has said:
“We need to be able to put our hand on our heart when we talk to our students and to our alumni and to our researchers and be able to say that we’re confident that the sort of companies that we’re investing in are consistent with the broad themes that drive this university,” Professor Young told the program.
That’s fine, but if the ANU is too good for investment returns from the resources sector – or some of them anyway – then it is too good for their tax dollars and too good for their charitable donations.