Saturday, January 19, 2013

Joe Nocera's Column: "Investing in Guns"

Mr. Nocera has captured much of what is wrong in the world of institutional investing even though his focus was on guns.

Set out below are my thoughts on Mr. Nocera's column as posted at the New York Times web-site

As the former Chief Investment Officer for the State of North Carolina, I must admit that I used every one of the excuses identified by Mr. Nocera to avoid responsibility for inappropriate investments. It is easier to hide behind your money managers (they make the decisions), shrink your investment into a fraction of basis points (the investment is tiny), or narrowly define your mission (we're just trying to make money) than to accept responsibility. If something is important to institutional investors, their money managers and the capital markets will listen.

Divestiture is the easy way out, especially when the positions are small. We will see a number of pension plans sell their positions in the two public firearms companies, and make bold statements about their decisive actions. Divestiture is just walking away from the problem.

Unfortunately, institutional investors -- pension plans, endowments and mutual funds-- tend to walk away from every problem ranging from guns to foreclosure. They own our companies, but the public and the taxpayers seem to own the problems.

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