KiwiSaver funds invested in nuclear weapons

New Zealanders’ long, proud anti-nuclear weapon history is being compromised by KiwiSaver investments according to Paul Brownsey, Chief Investment Officer of Pathfinder Asset Management.

“We have strong opinions about where our money is invested. We especially don’t like it to go to organisations manufacturing nuclear weapons.”

Yet according to Brownsey, some New Zealanders are helping the nuclear weapons industry – although unwittingly on most people’s part.

He says a new report from Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) notes three Australian Banks (ANZ, Westpac and CBA – the owner of ASB) have loaned or invested over US$2.7 billion to companies involved in designing, manufacturing, testing and servicing nuclear weapons.

ANZ and Westpac are responsible for most of this lending, Brownsey says.

Between them they manage over 35 percent of the KiwiSaver market and their shares, as investments, are owned by a substantial number of KiwiSaver schemes.

Brownsey says ANZ and Westpac are prominent in ICAN’s annual report showing which financial institutions have invested in the 18 companies most heavily involved in the nuclear weapons industry.

Both banks have provided significant capital (a total of more than US$1.3 billion each in investment in equity and debt) to companies integral to the production of nuclear weapons.

Brownsey says the companies include AECOM, Fluor Corp, General Dynamics, Honeywell International, Jacobs Engineering, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and the Serco Group.

Each has received millions of dollars to support their involvement in the construction of facilities or manufacture and maintenance of nuclear warheads.

“This pattern of investment is problematic for two reasons,” says Brownsey.

“Firstly, in our view most KiwiSaver investors assume that their savings are not used to fund problem companies like the nuclear weapons industry.

“Yet any KiwiSaver scheme that owns either ANZ or Westpac shares is doing just that – supporting the nuclear weapons industry.

“Secondly, it shows the weakness of the banks’ approach of applying different ethical standards to different parts of the business.

“ANZ has excluded companies that invest in firms involved in the testing or manufacture of nuclear weapons from its KiwiSaver scheme, while Westpac excludes only those involved in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

“Yet both banks are content to lend money or invest in those same companies that they exclude from KiwiSaver.”

Brownsey says financial institutions face a simple ethical choice: “You either choose to do bad stuff or you choose not to do bad stuff, and you explain both very clearly to investors. There is no in-between”.

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News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

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