There is nothing like hitting multi-billion-dollar companies right in the P&L when it comes to major health and safety failures. And certainly nothing like that happened when the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined two of the biggest meat processing companies USD29,000 (£24,200) for allowing more than 42,000 workers to contract Covid-19 while at work. This works out at USD0.68 per infected employee across the entire industry, or USD126 per death. To give this risible fine some context; the two penalised firms Smithfields and JBS made USD14bn and USD57.1 bn in revenues last year. As PIRC has reported for several months, the globalRead More →

Another online retailer in hot water recently is, of course, Boohoo. The company faces allegations that suppliers may not have paid the minimum wage, but the case has also exposed investors. This week the FT reported how some investors have grown increasingly dependent on rating agencies when it comes to guiding investment decisions, especially when selecting companies for responsible investment portfolios. Yet heavy reliance on ratings alone is looking far less credible as a number of highly rated companies have been relevaled to have poor environmental, social or governance behaviours. Earlier this month, PIRC reported on the downgrading of mining firm Rio Tinto which heldRead More →

Southern Water will find itself in the dock next week after pleading guilty of dumping tonnes of noxious substances – including raw sewage – into UK waterways. The utility company faces millions of pounds in fines after admitting 51 charges from the Environment Agency of breaching pollution laws on various dates between 2010 and 2015. Each charge against the company relates to many months pumping noxious materials into rivers at notable beauty spots in Kent and Hampshire. The news should prove a worry for investors in Southern Water, which has already shelled out £126m in fines following an investigation by industry regulator Ofwat. The SouthernRead More →

Google and Facebook’s online dominance could come to an end as the UK government proposes pro-competition regulation. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recommends an enforceable code of conduct which will govern platform’s behaviour and a range of pro-competitive intervention which will redress imbalances of power held by the biggest providers. In a market study published last Wednesday, the CMA singles out search engine Google and social media platform Facebook as being ’protected by such strong incumbency advantages – including network effects, economies of scale and unmatchable access to user data – that potential rivals can no longer compete on equal terms’. The authority saysRead More →

We’ve written in the past about the some companies see quite sharp shifts in voting turnout. While Covid-19 has wreaked havoc with AGMs in general attention has understandably been elsewhere. But we’re still seeing some cranky voting results. Take the Lookers PLC meeting this week. Turnout at Monday’s meeting was not far short of 63%. But in 2019 it was 79%, meaning turnout fell by a fifth. So substantially less shareholders were motivated to vote despite major board changes, a delay to the publication of accounts and the identification of ’potentially fraudulent transactions’ in one division. Perhaps it’s because investors are waiting for the secondRead More →

It is not immediately obvious how to respond when you have just blown up not one but two ancient Aboriginal sites dating back 46,000 years, but if you are mining giant Rio Tinto, simply saying sorry is deemed sufficient. Having destroyed the ancient rock shelters in Western Australia, Rio Tinto issued an apology and said it was urgently reviewing plans for other sites in the area.Since this is shutting the stable door after the horse has exploded, Rio Tinto’s apology will likely hold little sway with the devastated Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people who claim the mining company disregarded their concerns for theRead More →

Supermarkets have been the Covid-19 success story enjoying surges in sales of as much as 50% as millions of shoppers filled their cupboards with pasta and bulk bought toilet roll. At the same time, food retailers have enjoyed a business rates holiday saving them millions of pounds in outgoings. What then to do with all this surplus cash? Morrisons’ solution is to give chief executive David Potts and chief operating officer Trevor Strain a 24% pension contribution. However, this might lead them into a rather awkward confrontation with shareholders since such a move would be in direct opposition to the 2018 corporate governance code whichRead More →

If a company has just raised capital from investors by placing, it strikes us that the board must have thought that the company needed capital and the best route to raising it was via investors. We also believe that if the company has just raised capital from shareholders this means that the board cannot think that this is the time to for it to be distributing capital to shareholders. That might sound rather obvious, but if you look at recent company behaviour, and authorities sought from shareholders at AGMs, you get a rather mixed message. For example, on Friday 17 April Foxtons announced it hadRead More →

Today is International Workers’ Memorial Day, a date to remember workers who have been killed, disabled, injured, or made unwell by their work. In 2020, it’s a date that has even greater significance. Sadly, many healthcare workers have lost their lives to Covid-19 as they seek to protect us from the virus. Workers in other sectors, who don’t have the option of working from home, have also been hard hit: transport, food processing, retail and so on. Many of these workers were modestly paid. The least we can do is take a minute to remember them. Often the ESG world has seemed to overlook theRead More →

With so many businesses fighting for survival during the Covid-19 pandemic, it looks like authorities are already taking a more relaxed view to mergers and acquisitions. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally approved Amazon’s significant investment in food delivery company Deliveroo, despite concerns at the end of last year that such activity could, according to The Guardian, limit competition in the takeaway and ultra-fast grocery delivery markets. It feared that customers, restaurants and grocers could face higher prices and lower-quality services because of the deal. The CMA says the risk of Deliveroo going under required a rethink of the official position, and sinceRead More →