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Publications – Annual meeting report 2014
Q and A

We held our 2014 annual meeting on 7 November last year at ‘The Bradford Hotel’ in Bradford. About two hundred members joined us for the usual comprehensive analysis of our investment and administration performance over the year.

Malcolm Slater, chair of WYPF, chaired the meeting, and delegates heard presentations from director Rodney Barton and fund investment advisers Noel Mills and Mark Stevens. The panel answered questions from people at the event.

Our keynote presenter this year was Andrew Bowker from the Bradford District Credit Union, a not-for-profit co-operative.

Often the liveliest part of the meeting is the question-and-answer session, so we publish all the questions and answers for everyone to read.

Question 1

Are the staff on the Investment Team required to complete a declaration of interests, please?

If so, where can members see this information?

Answer

The nature of the work undertaken by Investments staff, and the requirement to ensure that their integrity is not open to question, mean they must adhere to certain conditions in their private and work dealings. These include handling of inside and price sensitive information, private conflict of interests, acceptance of gifts and hospitality, the handling of shareholder benefits accrued from assets held by the Fund and personal dealing in investments.

Investment staff are required to notify the Director of WYPF of any share transaction they undertake, within 5 days of the transaction taking place. Investments staff must also indicate to the Director of WYPF if they have dealt in securities for their personal account within 48 hours either side of them having dealt in the same securities for WYPF.

Staff complete a declaration every 6 months that they have notified all personal dealings. This information is retained by the Director of WYPF and is highly confidential and therefore not publicly available.


Question 2 and Question 3

Question 2

Can a pensioner invest money into the Yorkshire Pension and be paid interest annually. And in the event of his or her death the invested money paid to the Executor of his or her relatives.

Question 3

I am 60 now and don’t have a lot of Pension from WYPF as haven’t worked for them for long unfortunately. Is it possible I can pay more into pension fund to top-it up when I have it?

Answer (to both questions)

Unfortunately the Pension Fund is not a savings scheme and only currently members working for one of the Employers participating in the Fund can pay contributions into the Fund.

Question 4

Can you tell me what engagement the Fund is currently having with fossil fuel companies and the results of your engagement?

Answer

Together with our engagement partner and the LAPFF we have had several meetings with BP exploring capital expenditure plans and risks associated with the development of reserves in the light of the emerging stranded assets debate. We also asked at the AGM about company plans to diversify into low carbon energy sources. BP has announced a focus on value over volume, and a further meeting with the Chairman is imminent.

Shell have signed a collaborative letter on investor concerns over capital expenditure plans linked to the development of reserves, and have released a detailed formal response to the stranded assets debate.

The carbon asset risk was raised at the AGM. We recently met with the Chairman and discussed a potential resolution relating tothe low carbon transition. The company committed to addressing shareholder concerns at this meeting.

We attended the Rio Tinto AGM to question the viability of the company’s strategy on thermal coal, the company responded that there is a place for thermal coal in the future, but hope that alternative energy sources can be found.


Question 5.1

What ethical or environmental/renewable energy investment funds have been considered in the last reporting year. Which have been approved for investment and which have been rejected and what were the grounds for acceptance or rejection.

Answer 5.1

All investments are selected on financial criteria, as they have to be sound investments and provide a proper return for the Fund so it can pay pensions and other benefits when they are due. It would not be appropriate to disclose any investments that have been rejected, but the fund has invested in renewable energy funds, and new technology funds which will contribute to lower energy consumption in the future.

Question 5.2

What steps have WYPF investment advisory panel taken to engage with Glencore to improve its poor human and employee rights and environmental performance record?

Answer 5.2

The Fund has engaged with Glencore

  • Glencore was the last FTSE 100 company not to have a female board director. Highlighted the issue prior to the AGM with attendance press-coverage. Company appointed Patrice Merrin to the board shortly afterwards.
  • Subsequent meetings with chairman, chief executive and non-executive director (end June/beginning July).
  • Meetings covered the topics of corporate governance, anti-bribery systems, approach to tax, human rights, climate change, health and safety, social development and slavery.
  • One outcome was that the company improved its rating from the Climate Disclosure Project (CDP) during the year. CDP rates companies on the information they provide relating to greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and management of risks and opportunities from climate change.

Question 6.1

One of our largest shareholdings is in British and American Tobacco. This company trades (exclusively, I believe) in a product that kills people and results in a large cost to taxpayers through treatment for resulting illnesses in the NHS. I believe that other investments could be made in companies that do not have such negative aspects. Would the Fund agree to seek alternative investments?

Answer 6.1

The Local Government Association has obtained clear legal advice that pension funds must make decisions on investment grounds. The tobacco sector is a good dividend payer, and the Fund would be considerably worse off had it not held these stocks. The risks of the sector are well known, and the managers will continue to consider the sector against other opportunities, and invest according to their best judgement on likely future returns.

Question 6.2

Inequality is at a record level both across the world and in the UK. It is reported that the Chief Executive of a FTSE 100 company is paid (on average) over 600s time that of the lowest paid in the companies. As a major shareholder the Fund can use its influence as it can vote on the Renumeration Report of a company in which we have an investment. I propose that the Fund votes against any Renumeration Report where a company is not agreeing to

  1. pay all staff in the UK at the level of the living wage, or
  2. a pay increase for executives no greater than the average settlement agreed with the overall workforce in the company.

Would the Fund agree to this proposal?

Answer 6.2

Pay is a regular topic for engagement, both in terms of excessive directors remuneration and fair pay for staff. The Fund has voted against remuneration reports where the company response is unacceptable, and will continue to do so in the future.

Question 7

Will WYPF avoid investing in companies providing good or services to settlements on occupied Palestinian land?

Answer 7

As indicated earlier, the Local Government Association has obtained clear legal advice that pension funds must make decisions on investment grounds. By holding a stock we acquire the right to engage with the company, and seek a more positive result.

For example, G4S has promised to end its Israeli jail contracts within three years, a stock where there has been engagement together with LAPFF. The CEO has established risk committees at executive and Board level to deal with complex risks, which now cover non financial risks, such as human rights and Corporate Social Responsibility.