Media spotlight on U of California's investments

From the Bay Citizen and the New York Times: the University of California isn't voting its values on hundreds of shareholder resolutions that have come before it.
Under U.C.’s proxy voting guidelines, the university is required to review case by case all shareholder resolutions that are “controversial or relate to social issues.” But thousands of documents obtained from sources and under a California Public Records Act request by The Bay Citizen show that, over the past two years, Institutional Shareholder Services, a proxy voting service, voted on behalf of U.C. against hundreds of resolutions that appeared to fall within the university’s guidelines.

The documents show that the university voted against nonbinding resolutions that would have encouraged companies to set goals for lower emissions of greenhouse gases, carry out policies prohibiting discrimination against individuals based on sex or sexual identity, report political contributions, form human rights committees and improve treatment of animals. The university voted against 188 such resolutions in 2008, and at least 50 in 2009.

Melvin Stanton, the university’s associate chief investment officer, said in an e-mail that U.C. focused primarily on growing its investments. Mr. Stanton added that no evidence existed of “a significant correlation between proposals brought by shareholders/activist groups and additional shareholder value,” on social or environmental issues.

“Our focus is doing what is best to improve the financial wherewithal of a particular company,” Mr. Stanton said in a telephone interview. “We’re not really focusing on social issues.”

But critics say the university is violating its own policy by failing to review issues touching on social responsibility and the environment before it votes against them.

Congratulations to REC Affiliate the UC Responsible Investments Coalition for getting major media coverage of this important issue! Once again we can see how the university's administration has a one-track mind on this issue. Voting your proxies certainly won't hurt the bottom line, and could definitely help it - but it is our job to make sure the fiduciaries see that.

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