One of the greatest mysteries of the financial crisis, along with why no one saw it coming and who cuts Bernie Madoff's hair, is how pension funds and other institutional investors managed to escape the public's ire.
Miles and miles of column inches have poured vitriol on greedy bankers, incompetent regulators and short-sighted politicians. But the pension funds that had such a key role to play in approving the dysfunctional bonus culture and flawed risk assessments that led to the crisis have escaped pretty much scot free. Sure, they have lost trillions of dollars (of our money), but for some reason public condemnation has not followed.
The reason this is strange is that institutional investors in general and pension funds in particular are meant to play a crucial role in ensuring the financial system, and by extension, the economic system works.
They are meant to make their investments with an eye for long-term, stable returns and as such you would expect them to provide a voice of reason, counseling firms not to fixate on the next quarter and take unnecessary risks.
They are also meant to represent the shareholders, ie pension holders, rather than the management of the company they have invested in. Our financial system is occasionally dubbed a shareholder democracy for a reason - shareholders are meant to have a voice.
So when the management boards of the big banks approved themselves bonus schemes that failed to deliver improved results or pursued business strategies that were laden with disastrous levels of risk, it was institutional investors who should have intervened - after all it was their money (or in the case of pension funds, our money) that was ultimately being put at risk.
Yes, the banks must still take the bulk of the responsibility for the crash. But institutional investors were complicit in the crisis, they should have been more sceptical of the banks' claims and they should have been more aware that their investments were at risk. It was they, as much as regulators, who should have raised the alarm.
A similar scenario is now playing itself out around the BP oil spill with the pension funds managing to somehow paint themselves as the innocent victim of a disaster for which they are partially responsible.
As London Mayor Boris Johnson observed this week, "when you consider the huge exposure of British pension funds to BP it starts to become a matter of national concern if a great British company is being continually beaten up on the airwaves".
It's a fair point, it is a matter of huge concern. But the pension funds that hold shares in BP must surely have known that deep sea drilling is a risky and politically contentious business when they bought those shares. They also should have known, as we all now know, that BP's US safety record was little short of a disgrace when set against that of its competitors. Just as they should have known that the company's recent shift in focus away from renewables put it on a path that remains environmentally and financially unsustainable in the medium to long-term.
Instead of leaping to their defence, a braver politician than Johnson would have pointed out that pension funds were in some way complicit in the current crisis given that they should have increased pressure on the BP board to sort out its safety record. Failing that, they should have offloaded their BP shares long ago and invested in a business with a lower risk profile.
The wider risks posed by these virtually voiceless shareholders are set to become ever more prominent over the next decade as a result of climate change.
As ethical investment groups such as Ceres and the Institutional Investors Group in Climate Change (IIGCC) have persuasively argued, investors will have a critical role to play in determining how rapidly we transition to a low carbon economy.
But while these groups have done a lot of good work and the number of shareholder votes relating to climate change and environmental issues has increased rapidly over the past few years, they still tend to count success as a close vote on whether or not a firm should report on its carbon emissions or a minor concession from a company's management accepting it should undertake a climate risk assessment.
Ask investment experts if institutional investors are really willing to publicly ditch firms that pursue environmentally unsustainable business models and you are greeted with a wry smile and a shake of the head. They will tinker around the edges by demanding some concessions to climate change policies, but with a few admirable exceptions they are still unwilling to rock the boat and demand real changes. The short-term dividend is still king.
The problem is that unless institutional investors genuinely embrace the concept of shareholder activism and demand that businesses take environmental risks more seriously, we will all end up collecting our pensions in a world on the brink of climatic catastrophe.
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