Vice Fund joins Social(k) – Guns and Armaments made a killing in 2013

Can't beat 'em, join 'em

Can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em

Vice Fund invests in companies, both domestic and foreign, engaged in the aerospace and defense industries, owners and operators, gaming facilities as well as manufacturers of gaming equipment, manufactures of tobacco products and producers of alcoholic beverages.

The Vice Fund seeks to select well-performing stocks of tobacco, alcohol, gaming, and weapons/defense companies because we believe that these industries tend to thrive regardless of the economy as a whole. In fact, they may have the potential to perform better when times are uncertain, leading many to view investment in “Vice” industries as a solid strategy during recessionary periods.

The Vice Fund invests in the following sectors: Aerospace/Defense, Gaming, Tobacco and Alcoholic Beverages.

These four sectors were chosen because they demonstrate one or more of these compelling and distinctive investment characteristics:

Steady demand regardless of economic condition
Global Marketplace – not limited to the U.S. economy
Potentially high profit margins
Natural barriers to new competition
We believe that there are numerous investment opportunities in these sectors which have been largely overlooked by other funds. While many of the most widely held and well-known mutual fund families invest in companies doing business in these industries, no other fund concentrates solely on these four sectors.

Our rigorous focus on aerospace/defense, gaming, tobacco and alcoholic beverages has given us experience navigating within them, and provides our investors with maximum exposure to these sectors.

“The revolution is coming and we want our plan sponsors to profit from it.” says Social(k) President Rob “gun runner” Thomas.

Obama, Leading Scientists Focus on Climate | The Allegheny Front

March 21, 2014

This week brought some high-profile attention to climate change. President Obama launched a nifty climate.gov website with maps and info on the topic, and a leading science organization said the changing climate is like riding your bike down a rocky, curvy path, speeding toward the edge of a sharp cliff overlooking churning waters.

They’re trying to make the point that, seriously folks, we’ve got to do something—and fast. 

The Obama administration says climate change is already causing significant damage. In 2012 alone, extreme weather events caused more than $110 billion in damages and claimed more than 300 lives. And so the White House this week announced an effort to use what you might call nerd power to help local governments, private companies, and regular people prepare for climate change. They’ve opened a new website to provide a clearinghouse for all the data currently available.

Josh Knauer, who owns a software company based in Pittsburgh, has been advising the administration on the site, and was in Washington for the announcement of its release. (Eds Note: Knauer is married to Allegheny Front Executive Producer, Kathy Knauer)

“The problem with climate change data that has existed until now is that the data is scattered across many, many different websites and databases.  In the industry, we call that the data silo problem," Knauer says. "What has happened with the climate data initiative is that all of that data is being brought together into a central coordinated location that anyone in the world has the ability to access." 

Knauer says coordination of all this data will help localized data can help the governments and the public understand the risks they face from climate change. Will the public really use a site like this? 

"Now, will my mom log into the website and gain a lot of insight on what she’s seeing there?" Knauer wonders. "That still remains to be seen."

The administration is also working with high-tech companies, such as Google, Microsoft and Intel, to come up with tools to help communities prepare for weather extremes, such as flooding, heat waves and drought. They include computer simulations for people to use and see what would happen with rising seas and other warming scenarios. Companies also plan to design new apps on disaster risk.

Knauer has been working on these kinds of issues since the early 1990s, and he says getting movement from the very top of the U.S. government is a big deal.

"I have to say it was very powerful to be sitting in the White House and hearing John Podesta, and other advisors to the president who are speaking on behalf of the president, talking about the fact that climate change is real, it’s happening right now, and we can feel some of the impacts right now," Knauer says. "And to see that at the highest levels of government after all the years that so many of us have put into this issue and trying to raise the alarm… it was very gratifying, and quite frankly, a little scary at the same time." 

Data folks weren’t the only geeks on the climate change beat this week. One of the world’s leading scientific organizations also put out a rare call to action. The American Association for the Advancement of Science put out a report called ‘What We Know.’ It provides the current state of science and climate, and the risks ahead. There was no new information in their report, but they wanted to drive home that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is happening, that humans are causing it, and there’s much we can do to stem its effects.

via Obama, Leading Scientists Focus on Climate | The Allegheny Front.

Looking Ahead Responsibly

February 2014

Running the Fund:Looking Ahead Responsibly

Jing Wei

Experts anticipate the increasing importance of ESG for plan investors

Ask Adam Strauss, a portfolio manager at the Chicago-based Appleseed Fund, to describe the way he evaluates and selects investments, and he will give an answer similar to that of many active managers.

“We’re stock pickers, so what we’re looking for is to invest in high-quality companies with stocks that are significantly undervalued,” Strauss says. “And we look very closely at balance sheets. If a company experiences a temporary problem in the business but the balance sheet is strong, you’ve got lots of time on your side to turn things around. If it’s weak, then that’s working against you.”

It is only after discussing pricing power and competitive advantage that he brings up the term “sustainability” or “ESG,” short for environmental, social and governance. The term has become shorthand for investment methodologies that consider sustainability factors in assessing risk and return.

ESG considerations can involve anything from an investment’s carbon footprint to its sensitivity to potential resource or energy shortages. Other elements include investment chain alignment, transparency and active asset ownership.

Strauss says the Appleseed Fund incorporates ESG not only to ensure that shareholders own environmentally and socially responsible companies but also as a means of eliminating risk and boosting potential returns.

“Our goal is to beat the market, so we’re very focused on delivering returns and doing it with less risk,” Strauss says. “We’ve beaten the markets by several percentage points per year since starting in 2006, and we’ve also delivered an extremely low beta.”

Interestingly, it is the traditional risk and return factors that will be most important for ESG funds, as they are for all funds, when it comes to penetrating the retirement planning marketplace. That is because the Department of Labor (DOL) has affirmed in a number of advisory publications—especially two issued in 2008 by its Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)—that ESG factors must be considered secondarily to the economics of any investment being contemplated by a plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

In other words, according to the DOL, noneconomic factors can serve at most as a tiebreaker when retirement plan fiduciaries are considering investment choices. That holds true even for plans at issue-dedicated nonprofits and other social organizations, where participants may be more willing to consider ethics during the investment process.

Despite the fiduciary hurdle, experts anticipate certain ESG factors—namely, climate risk, energy pricing and resource scarcity—to become significantly more material in long-term investment analysis and therefore to become more important to retirement plan investors in the years ahead.

via PLANSPONSOR.com – Looking Ahead Responsibly.

Foundations Band Together to Get Rid of Fossil-Fuel Investments – NYTimes.com

Foundations Band Together to Get Rid of Fossil-Fuel Investments

By DIANE CARDWELL

Daniel Rosenbaum for The New York Times

Ellen Dorsey of the Wallace Global Fund, which is coordinating foundations’ efforts to sell coal, oil and gas production stocks.

Seventeen foundations controlling nearly $1.8 billion in investments have united to commit to pulling their money out of companies that do business in fossil fuels, the group plans to announce on Thursday.

The move is a victory for a developing divestiture campaign that has found success largely among small colleges and environmentally conscious cities, but has not yet won over the wealthiest institutions like Harvard, Brown and Swarthmore.

But the participation of the foundations, including the Russell Family Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America and the John Merck Fund, is the largest commitment to the effort, and stems in part from a push among philanthropies to bring their investing in line with their missions.

“At a minimum, our grants should not be undercut by our investments,” said Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, which is practically divested of fossil fuels already and is coordinating the effort among foundations. “If you owned fossil fuels in your investment portfolio, it became increasingly clear to foundations that they own climate change, and they’re potentially profiting from those investments,” at the same time as they make grants to fight the issue.

She said she expected several larger foundations to commit to the effort, which includes moving investments to renewable energy or other sustainability ventures, in the coming months.

Among the largest in the current group is the Park Foundation, with a portfolio worth roughly $335 million, and the Schmidt Family Foundation, with about $304 million, co-founded by Google’s executive chairman, Eric E. Schmidt.

The divestiture campaign is modeled on earlier efforts aimed at ending apartheid in South Africa and ceasing to support tobacco companies. Many groups are involved, but the movement has largely been escalated by a grass-roots organization, 350.org, whose name refers to 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which some scientists say is the maximum safe level, a threshold already exceeded.

In addition to the foundations, 22 cities, two counties, 20 religious organizations, nine colleges and universities and six other institutions had signed up to rid themselves of investments in fossil fuel companies, frequently defined as the top 200 coal-, oil- and gas-producing companies identified in a report from the Carbon Tracker Initiative based in London.

The campaign’s expansion comes as institutions like public pension funds are changing their investment strategies to reflect a calculation of the so-called carbon bubble. That idea holds that most of the coal, oil and gas reserves owned by fossil fuel-based companies cannot be burned without dire climate consequences, meaning that the value of those companies will plummet once governments start strictly limiting emissions.

Some pension funds, like those of California and New York, are looking to pressure conventional energy companies to address the risks of climate change. But in some cities, like San Francisco and Boulder, Colo., officials are urging their pension funds to divest themselves of the investments.

via Foundations Band Together to Get Rid of Fossil-Fuel Investments – NYTimes.com.

World Bank chief backs fossil fuel divestment drive

 

 

World Bank chief backs fossil fuel divestment drive

Last updated on 27 January 2014, 12:05 pm

Jim Yong Kim says levels of carbon dioxide threaten development gains over the past two decades

By Ed King

The head of one of the world’s most powerful financial institutions says governments and business should consider withdrawing funding from oil, gas and coal companies.

“Through policy reforms, we can divest and tax that which we don’t want, the carbon that threatens development gains over the last 20 years,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in an address at the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, Switzerland.

Jim added financial regulators should set this agenda by forcing companies to reveal their exposure to climate-related impacts. He said: “The so-called “long-term investors” must recognize their fiduciary responsibility to future pension holders who will be affected by decisions made today. Corporate leaders should not wait to act until market signals are right and national investment policies are in place.”

World Bank Group vice president and special envoy for climate change Rachel Kyte described his call as “prudent”. It is believed to be the first time he has publically backed moves to cut investments in industries responsible for releasing large quantities of climate warming gases into the atmosphere.

via World Bank chief backs fossil fuel divestment drive.

Social(k) voted Best For The Community

 

Best for Community

Best for Community

November 19, 2013: Springfield MA

Today, Social(k) was recognized for creating the most positive impact for their communities, by the nonprofit B Lab with the release of the ‘B Corp Best for Communities List’, the fourth installment in its 2013 ‘B Corp Best for the World’ series. Social(k) is one of 61 high impact companies across 35 industries and 13 countries honored for improving the quality of life throughout their communities.

Social(k) believes in supporting community. As a member of our local community we look to shop and support vendors that have similar values as we do. We next look to support businesses that are part of our broader national community through membership as B Corp, 1 Percent for the Planet, Social Venture Network, BALLE, Slow Money, Green America and Social Investment Forum memberships.  We also work very hard to support the over 300 organizations that have picked Social(k) for their retirement plans.

Social(k) believes in supporting community. As a member of our local community we look to shop and support vendors that have similar values as we do. We next look to support businesses that are part of our broader national community through membership as B Corp, 1 Percent for the Planet, Social Venture Network, BALLE, Slow Money, Green America and Social Investment Forum memberships.  We also work very hard to support the over 300 organizations that have picked Social(k) for their retirement plans.

Price is not the first thing we check as so much more goes into a relationship than price.” Rob Thomas, President Social(k)      

Other companies earning this honor include Greyston Bakery, as well-known for its open-hiring policies as for supplying brownies to Ben & Jerry’s, One PacificCoast Bank, an innovative, triple-bottom line, community development financial institution, and both Cooperative Home Care Associates (NY) and Home Care Associates (PA), two of the largest worker-owned cooperatives providing high-quality home care services to elders and individuals living with disabilities. 30% of honorees are based outside the US, with 5 based in Canada and 14 in emerging markets. Honorees operating in emerging markets include a telecommunications company in Afghanistan (Roshan), an internet cafe and job training company in Brazil (CDI Ventures S/A), and an investor in smallholder farmers in Kenya (Juhudi Kilimo).  (Full list of honorees below.)

Other companies earning this honor include Greyston Bakery, as well-known for its open-hiring policies as for supplying brownies to Ben & Jerry’s, One PacificCoast Bank, an innovative, triple-bottom line, community development financial institution, and both Cooperative Home Care Associates (NY) and Home Care Associates (PA), two of the largest worker-owned cooperatives providing high-quality home care services to elders and individuals living with disabilities. 30% of honorees are based outside the US, with 5 based in Canada and 14 in emerging markets. Honorees operating in emerging markets include a telecommunications company in Afghanistan (Roshan), an internet cafe and job training company in Brazil (CDI Ventures S/A), and an investor in smallholder farmers in Kenya (Juhudi Kilimo).  (Full list of honorees below.)

Other companies earning this honor include Greyston Bakery, as well-known for its open-hiring policies as for supplying brownies to Ben & Jerry’s, One PacificCoast Bank, an innovative, triple-bottom line, community development financial institution, and both Cooperative Home Care Associates (NY) and Home Care Associates (PA), two of the largest worker-owned cooperatives providing high-quality home care services to elders and individuals living with disabilities. 30% of honorees are based outside the US, with 5 based in Canada and 14 in emerging markets. Honorees operating in emerging markets include a telecommunications company in Afghanistan (Roshan), an internet cafe and job training company in Brazil (CDI Ventures S/A), and an investor in smallholder farmers in Kenya (Juhudi Kilimo).  (Full list of honorees here.)

“Businesses that can empirically demonstrate they improve the quality of life in the communities around them will be the ones that attract the best talent and turn their customers into evangelists,”

“Businesses that can empirically demonstrate they improve the quality of life in the communities around them will be the ones that attract the best talent and turn their customers into evangelists,” said Jay Coen Gilbert, co-founder of B Lab, the nonprofit that publishes the B Corp Best for the World Lists.

The ‘B Corp Best for Communities List’ honors businesses that earned an overall score in the top 10% of all Certified B Corporations for their positive impact on their communities as measured by the B Impact Assessment, a comprehensive assessment used by more than 10,000 businesses to measure their impact on their workers, community, and the environment. This analysis includes metrics regarding the company’s product/service direct impact on social issues including health, education and economic opportunity, supplier and workforce diversity, local and fair trade supply chains, and volunteerism and charitable giving.

Each honoree is a Certified B Corporation, a new type of company that uses the power of business for good and meets rigorous standards of overall social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Today there are over 850 Certified B Corporations across more than 60 industries and 28 countries, unified by the common goal to redefine success in business.

In April, B Lab recognized 67 companies as ‘Best for the World’ (overall impact); in June, 63 companies as ‘Best for the Environment’; and in September, 79 companies as ‘Best for Workers’.

* * *

Social(k) offers over 500 Environmental, Social and Governance, ESG screened investment options alongside thousands of traditional investments funds.  When you are ready to offer employees a retirement benefit, Social(k) is aligned with your company’s DNA.  Join Green America, Social Investment Forum, Biomimicry Guild, Bioneers, B Lab, BALLE, SVN, and MoveOn.org among other progressive organizations making the world a better place. Socialk.com or Facebook.

B Lab is a nonprofit organization that serves a global movement to redefine success in business so that all companies compete not only to be the best in the world, but the best for the world.

B Lab drives this systemic change through a number of interrelated initiative: 1) building a community of Certified B Corporations to make it easier for all of us to tell the difference between “good companies” and good marketing; 2) passing legislation to accelerate growth of social entrepreneurship and impact investing (20 states have already passed benefit corporation legislation); 3) developing B Analytics, a customizable platform for measuring, benchmarking, and reporting on impact 4) providing free, powerful tools for businesses to measure, compare and improve their social and environmental performance (more than 15,000 businesses use B Lab’s free B Impact Assessment).

For more information, visit www.bcorporation.net, www.b-analytics.net and www.benefitcorp.net.

Executives from each honored company available for comment.

For more information contact Katie Kerr at katie@bcorporation.net, (610) 293-0299

 

 

 

 

 

2014 401k Retirement Plan Contribution Limits – 401khelpcenter.com

Pension Plan Limits for the Tax Year 2014

On October 31, 2013 the IRS announced cost of living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for tax year 2014. Some pension limitations such as those governing 401k plans and IRAs will remain unchanged because the increase in the Consumer Price Index did not meet the statutory thresholds for their adjustment. However, other pension plan limitations will increase for 2014. Highlights include the following:

The elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401k, 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $17,500.

The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401k, 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $5,500.

The limit on annual contributions to an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) remains unchanged at $5,500. The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000.

The deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for singles and heads of household who are covered by a workplace retirement plan and have modified adjusted gross incomes (AGI) between $60,000 and $70,000, up from $59,000 and $69,000 in 2013. For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the income phase-out range is $96,000 to $116,000, up from $95,000 to $115,000. For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $181,000 and $191,000, up from $178,000 and $188,000. For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

The AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $181,000 to $191,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $178,000 to $188,000 in 2013. For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $114,000 to $129,000, up from $112,000 to $127,000. For a married individual filing a separate return, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

The AGI limit for the saver’s credit (also known as the retirement savings contribution credit) for low- and moderate-income workers is $60,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $59,000 in 2013; $45,000 for heads of household, up from $44,250; and $30,000 for married individuals filing separately and for singles, up from $29,500.

via 2014 401k Retirement Plan Contribution Limits – 401khelpcenter.com.

Extracting Fossil Fuels from Your Portfolio: A Guide to Personal Divestment and Reinvestment

Climate change is one of the most serious threats of our time.

Temperatures are rising, snow and rainfall patterns are shifting, and more extreme climate events — including heavy rainstorms and record high temperatures — are already affecting our communities and natural habitats. Scientists agree that carbon emissions and pollution from burning
fossil fuels like coal and oil are the main cause of climate change. Action needs to be taken immediately to protect ourselves, future generations, and other species. Yet too often we’ve seen elected officials back away from the required steps, often in direct response to lobbying and pressure by the fossil fuel industry.

The fossil fuel divestment campaign provides an immediate and direct action that each of us can take to send a clear message through our retirement plans, individual stock holdings, or other investments. This guide aims to help individuals better understand fossil fuel divestment, provide clear steps to move your money out of coal, oil, and gas companies, and give tips on how to proactively invest in sustainable companies and investment vehicles. We encourage you to use this guide and the resources in the appendix to educate yourself, your family, your friends, or your financial planner on the options to go fossil fuel free. 

Thank you for taking the first step.
Matthew W. Patsky, CFA is the CEO of Trillium Asset Management and Leslie Samuelrich is the President of Green
Century Capital Management.

Extracting-Fossil-Fuels Full Report

Monsanto stock not looking good, dumped by hedge funds – Buzz.NaturalNews.com

Constant news of harmful products and irresponsible practices has caused Monsanto tough luck with its stocks. Investors are picking up on the bad publicity and pulling hedge funds from the company.

In preparation for the third quarter, 59 hedge funds tracked by Insider Monkey held long positions in Monsanto’s stock, down 6% from one quarter before.

Out of the hedge funds followed by Insider Monkey, Stephen Mandel’s Lone Pine Capital held the most valuable Monsanto position at $613.3 million dollars. The second most valuable hedge fund is Andreas Halvorsen’s Viking Global with $414.5 million.

Despite continuing hopefulness from such investors, other hedge funds have decided to take this opportunity to dump the controversial agricultural giant. Jeffrey Vinik’s Vinik Asset Management and Sean Cullinan’s Point State Capital dropped their stock for about $100.8 million and $54.7 million, respectively. Furthermore, over the past half-year, Monsanto has seen zero unique insiders purchasing and 10 insider sales.

This is important information as it gives possible clues about Monsanto’s financial future, the way that it is handling its current situation, what insiders and investors expect from the company and, subsequently, the direction that it will have to take to keep its investors.

via Monsanto stock not looking good, dumped by hedge funds – Buzz.NaturalNews.com.