It was in all the headlines today: “Target feeling investor backlash”, screamed the Strib.
The backlash from gay-rights supporters against Target Corp.’s recent political donation now includes some institutional shareholders.
Three management firms that collectively hold $57.5 million of Target stock — Walden Asset Management, Calvert Asset Management and Trillium Asset Management — filed a proposal asking Target’s independent board members to undertake a “comprehensive review of Target’s political contributions and spending processes including the criteria used for such contributions,” according to a statement released Thursday night
Sounds pretty serious, huh?
There are two problems with this “story”:
Small Potatoes: 57.5 million dollars in Target stock equals about 0.0015 of Target Corp’s $38,190,000,000 (that’s thirty eight billion dollar and change) market capitalization; fifteen dollars out of every ten thousand worth of Target market capitalization.
That’s like taking fifteen cents out of a hundred dollars.
The amount of Target Corp stock owned by the three firms named in the story would have to move the decimal point a couple notches to even qualify as “pissing in the wind”.
This is not a serious challenge to Target.
But the Star Tribune didn’t figure the Minnesota voter needed to know that.
Who Are Those “Investment Firms”? The Star Tribune, and the rest of the media covering this story, don’t feel it important to elaborate on who the three “institutional shareholders” involved in this “resolution” are.
All three are firms involved in “socially responsible investing”. Walden is one of a group of investment companies demanding that President Obama create an office of Corporate Social Resopnsibility.
The purpose of the office would be to enhance and coordinate corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities across the government, at home and abroad, and to pursue policies and initiatives to strengthen the CSR commitments of the private sector.
A joint letter from the groups, released today, was organized by the 500-member Social Investment Forum (SIF), the U.S. membership association for socially and environmentally responsible investment professionals and institutions.
Calvert Asset Management also pursues left-friendly policies.
The organizations are asking the SEC to require companies to report annually on sustainability indicators in accordance with the most up-to-date reporting framework of the Global Reporting Initiative and on other material ESG matters as they come to light.
In a letter to SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro that accompanied the proposal, the investors said: “The present global economic crisis has made it readily apparent that our existing system for corporate reporting has failed shareholders. We believe that robust sustainability reporting could have mitigated some of the impacts of the financial crisis. These types of disclosures would have promoted longer-term thinking by investors and corporations, and earlier detection of predatory lending and other destructive business practices. There is a tremendous opportunity to learn from these gaps and to construct a system of safeguards to protect investors. We are confident that mandatory sustainability reporting will contribute significantly to rebuilding public trust in corporations as well as the agencies regulating them in the wake of the present crisis.”
Trillium? Yep – they’re an investment house that focuses on “Environtmental, Social and Governmental” “investment” – a “movement” focused on bypassing politics to affect policy by jiggering the capital market.
Their performance in the market is a matter of debate, perhaps.
But it’s not debateable that these three investment firms are not random firms purely focused on the non-political, fiduciary interests of the shareholder. And it’s not up for debate that the three companies all together aren’t even a vaporous fraction of Target’s total worth.
So why does the Strib feel the need to omit all this from their coverage?
Misreporting and incomplete reporting is a pattern. Two weeks ago, I busted the Saint Paul Pioneer Press claiming that Target’s share values were hurt by the controversy, on a week when the entire mid-to-high-level consumer retail market suffered a setback due to eroding consumer confidence numbers.
Is the Twin Cities’ business press also in the bag for Mark Dayton? What does this say about the rest of their “journalism?”