Reading the 2013 results of proxy shareholder resolutions orchestrated by various leftist organizations affiliated with “religiously” oriented investment groups, a colorfully descriptive phrase came to mind to describe both: Whatever its derivation, useful idiots is employed as “a pejorative term for people perceived as propagandists for a cause whose goals they are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause.”
For the purposes of this post, we’ll grant groups with purported religious and socially conscious authority such as Walden Asset Management, Trillium Asset Management, As You Sow and the Interfaith Council on Corporate Responsibility the benefit of the doubt. We’re not questioning the quality of their faith or the depth of their social concern. But their political agitation is fair game for a thorough critique. And it is clear that these groups have a major blind spot when it comes to financier George Soros. Soros, one may recall, is the Hungarian-born multibillionaire responsible for funding radical leftist causes, including the Center for Political Accountability, Common Cause, Media Matters, Planned Parenthood and ACORN and various and other sullied causes. The man, it should be noted, also amasses vast wealth by, in part, heavily investing in the energy sector.
It is the Center for Political Accountability, however, upon which I focus today. As noted previously, CPA’s Bruce Freed authored many of the shareholder resolutions introduced by faith-based activist shareholders gathered together to quiet corporate political speech as well as derail profits and place expensive speed bumps in the paths of companies in direct competition with Soros’ financial interests. Doubt it? Herewith from Ceres’ website:
Investors achieved noteworthy victories during this year’s shareholder proxy season, with a near record 110 shareholder resolutions filed with 94 U.S. companies on hydraulic fracturing, flaring, fossil fuel reserve risks and other climate – and sustainability – related risks and opportunities….
Filers of the resolutions include some of the nation’s largest public pension funds, such as the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the New York State and New York City Comptrollers’ Offices; socially responsible investors such as Green Century Capital Management and Trillium Asset Management; and religious, labor and other institutional investors, who collectively manage more than $500 billion in assets.
The majority of resolutions filed within the energy sector focused on strategies recently promoted by the International Energy Agency … to reduce sector-wide greenhouse gas emissions at no net economic cost, and in some cases, economic gain. These strategies include:
- Targeted energy efficiency measures in buildings, industry and transport;
- Limiting the construction and use of the least-efficient coal-fired power plants; and
- Cutting emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, in half by 2020.
This begs the question(s) of how any of the above can be perceived as posing “no net economic cost” or even presenting “economic gain” for the companies that adopt them, but I digress – somewhat. In fact, anyone familiar with business knows how expensive the above list would be to realize fully, and recruiting shareholder activists to promote such folderol could be tremendously lucrative to certain billionaires who might be major investors in the targeted companies’ direct competitors.
Did I mention Soros’ vast energy portfolio? Domestically, this includes Pioneer Natural Resources and EQT Corp. (Soros’ international energy interests are renowned, including Brazilian energy giant Petrobras). According to Forbes:
Both Soros’ top stock and the stock of which he is buying the most is Pioneer Natural Resources Company (PXD). He first bought 1,396,236 million shares in the third quarter of 2012 and over the next two quarters increased his shares to 2,322,781 as the price hiked from the upper $90s to the lower $121s. The company’s near 10-year high price Friday of $144.73 gives him a 42% average gain.
Pioneer is an oil and gas company which is active in the Permian Basian, South Texas, the Rockies, the Mid-Continent, Texas’ Barnett Shale Combo and Alaska’s Oooguruk field. It has 1.1 billion BOE of proved reserve and daily production of approximately 156,000 BOE/day….
Pioneer in 2008 cut its dividend from $0.30 per share to $0.8 per share, and it has remained at that level since. Its dividend yield is 0.10, higher than 76% of the companies in the global oil and gas E&P industry.
And the latter
Soros added to EQT, his fifth largest stock, for two consecutive quarters. He established the position in the second quarter of 2012 and owns 3,085,411 shares as of the first quarter of 2013. Its stock gained 64% in the past year and trades for $79.66 Friday – close to a 10-year high.
EQT is one of the nation’s largest natural gas producers, with operations in five states and three business units: production, midstream and commercial operations. It focuses on the Marcellus Shale….
The $12.46 million market cap company has a near 10-year high P/E of 56.4 and near 10-year high P/S of 6.8. EQT did pay an annual dividend of $0.88 per share since 2008, but cut it to $0.12 per share beginning January 2013 when it sold its natural gas distribution business and select midstream and commercial arrangements, and blended its two remaining core businesses in December 2012.
Let’s take a look at the list of 2013 ICCR proxy resolutions, shall we? Note that neither Pioneer nor EQT are targeted for reductions of greenhouse gases or corporate political disclosure. Herewith, however, a partial list of energy companies under these faith-based activists’ scrutiny:
- AGL Resources
- AMEREN (Union Electric)
- Alpha Natural Resources
- American Electric Power Company
- CONSOL Energy Inc.
- Chesapeake Energy Corp.
- Chevron Corp.
- Devon Energy
- FirstEnergy Corporation
And the list goes on … and on.
Let’s hope before the 2014 proxy resolution season begins, those clergy and other religious currently running interference for Soros’ energy investment portfolio recognize that “following the money” works both ways. As it stands now, they’re working directly to the benefit of one of the world’s richest men and a major contributor to causes ostensibly antithetical to many people of faith.