Huw ‘gravy train’ Lewis makes the news

Huw Lewis: knight in shining armour?

Huw Lewis: knight in shining armour or hypocrite?

Huw ‘gravy train’ Lewis, labour arsembly member for Merthyr Tydfil (even though he lives in Penarth with fellow Labour AM Lynne Neagle) has recently been heard criticising US firm Covanta over plans to build a huge waste incinerator in his constituency. Lewis is right to express his concerns. Covanta was found guilty of violating employment laws in the US and has been fined hundreds of thousands of pounds after exceeding emission levels of carcinogenic chemicals from its American incinerators.

‘Frankly, I find it a little surprising that the assembly government has been courting a company that has a string of environmental breaches and seems to also engage in union-bashing,’ said a perturbed Lewis.

Perhaps Huw might like to respond to South Wales Anarchists’ revelations last month that taxpayers’ money, set aside to provide for his generous pension, is being invested by Baillie Gifford Life Ltd in companies that, er, destroy the environment and abuse workers’ rights!

Alun 'greasy wops' Cairns

Alun 'greasy wops' Cairns

And whilst we’re on the subject of our arsembly members’ pension fund scam, we’re wondering why Alun ‘greasy wops’ Cairns hasn’t quite managed to remove an entry in the Welsh assembly register of members’ interests which still has him as chair of the pension fund trustees even though he was forced to resign from the post on 16 January 2009. Could we remind the diminutive tory that, according to section 36 of the Government of Wales act 2006, standing order 31 requires members to register within 4 weeks any changes to those interests. Oh dear, it looks like Alun has screwed up yet again…

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BAILLIE GIFFORD IN DEEP SH*T

Monday, 19 January 2009

South Wales Anarchists’ revelations about the Welsh arsembly pension fund’s manager, Baillie Gifford Life Ltd, last week can only be adding to the woes of the Edinburgh-based partnership.

Baillie Gifford partners, Alex Callender and Edward Hocknell

Baillie Gifford partners, Alex Callander and Edward Hocknell

            In 2007 the thirty-three partners who own the company were sitting pretty on investments worth £55 billion. By September 2008 that amount had plunged to £46 billion with one of its flagship funds, Scottish Mortgage Fund, losing nearly half its value. Baillie Gifford lost a further £200 million when Northern Rock collapsed. And the international investment markets are only set to get worse.

            While the bankruptcy of such a disreputable organisation could potentially be good news, we think it could spell even more of a disaster for the environment. This is what Edward Hocknell, one of the partners had to say recently:

“We think what will get us out of the hole will be infrastructure spending,” Hocknell said. “It won’t be a consumer recovery but an industrial one.”

This strategy has led Baillie Gifford managers to continue betting on companies such as the Brazilian energy giant Petrobrás and Sweden’s Atlas Copco.

He went on: “We are very overweight in areas that are dirty and smelly-mining and engineering-because emerging markets have huge reserves to spend on their infrastructures.”

What Mr Hocknell means by that is in order to claw back profits for its clients, many of whom are UK local authority pension funds involving billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, Baillie Gifford are going to pump more money into some of the most polluting companies on the planet.

Don’t these people take any responsibility for their actions? Of course they don’t. Profits come before people: “We take a pragmatic and flexible approach to corporate governance,” say Baillie Gifford on its website. “Baillie Gifford recognises that it has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of its clients.” And if that means supporting Robert Mugabe’s murderous regime in Zimbabwe by investing funds in Anglo-American mining corporation then so be it…

We CAN do something to stop these corporate cowboys.

Baillie Gifford is one of the largest managers of local authority pension funds in the UK. Not only does it look after the interests of Welsh arsembly members, Baillie Gifford manages the pension fund of the Scottish parliament and used to look after the pension fund of the Northern Ireland assembly.

If you work in local government, check on your pension fund with your employer. Baillie Gifford is creaming off billions of pounds from Orkney to Sussex.

Contact Baillie Gifford and express your outrage at what they’re doing.

We’re doing our best to track down the 33 partners. So far we’ve come up with:

 Alex Callander –     joint senior partner

Charles Plowden –  joint senior partner

Ken Barker                                                    Elaine Morrison

Peter Hadden                                                Anthony Tait

Edward Hocknell                                           James Anderson

The company also boasts top Tory porker, lord Strathclyde, as one of its directors.

lord Strathclyde

lord Strathclyde

 Head office address:

Baillie Gifford, Calton Square, 1, Greenside Row, Edinburgh EH1 3AN

Tel: 0131 275 2000

Or you can email them on: colin.neilson@bailliegifford.com

I’m sure Colin would love to hear from you…

And if you’ve got any more information on Baillie Gifford please tell us on cardiffanarchists@riseup.net

ALUN CAIRNS RESIGNS AS CHAIR OF ASSEMBLY PENSION FUND TRUSTEES

SOUTH WALES ANARCHISTS CLAIM VICTORY AS YET ANOTHER PENSION FUND SCANDAL EMERGES

 Following our revelations that the welsh arsembly members’ pension fund is being held in companies with appalling environmental and human rights’ records, chair of the pension scheme trustees, Alun ‘greasy wops’ Cairns has resigned.

another Tory twat bites the dust

another Tory twat bites the dust

End of story? Er, we don’t think so. Mr Cairns isn’t the only villain of the piece. There are, of course, four other trustees representing all the political parties who must have known as much or as little as Mr Cairns. Perhaps the lot of them should come clean and tell us exactly what they’ve been up to during their tenure as trustees? We’ll be sending a freedom of information question to the government requesting details of ‘meetings’ between trustees and Baillie Gifford Life Ltd, the Edinburgh-based partnership that manages members’ pensions. Watch this space, although we’ll probably be met with more porky pies from the freedom of misinformation team at the assembly.

But the story doesn’t end there. We’ve been in touch with the nice freedom of information officer at Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT), one of our favourite councils (see Gagged 24 and16) and we’ve learned that, coincidently, of course, Baillie Gifford, along with four other financial companies, manages RCT’s pension fund too! The assembly’s stash of £10.5 million pales into insignificance against RCT’s fund with a membership of 23,000 people. At the end of March 2008 the fund stood at £1.3 billion, with Baillie Gifford Asset Management holding £540 million.

 And, you’ve guessed it, many of the star performers in the arsembly fund feature in RCT’s. We asked specifically about money given to the arms and tobacco industries and were told the breakdown of holdings at 31st March 2007 in aerospace and defence was:

 BAE Systems            £2,908,645

Meggitt                        £3,305,736

Rolls Royce    £6,770,177

how many more Palestinian children will Israel murder?

how many more Palestinian children will Israel murder?

 

That wouldn’t be the same BAE Systems that supply Israel with parts for F-16 bombers currently being used to murder Palestinians, would it?

 

 

The breakdown of RCT’s holdings in tobacco was:

 British American Tobacco               £  6,252,715

Imperial Tobacco                              £10,838,441

Which, when added up, comes to £13 million to weapons manufactures and £17 million to tobacco barons.

By the end of March 2008 RCT’s investments in the arms trade had fallen to £9 million, following the sales of shares in arms companies including Lockheed Martin, worth £840,000 in 2006, and the sale of nearly £500,000 of shares  in our old friend, Raytheon (see Gagged 25). Investments in tobacco stood at almost £16 million.

Perhaps it’s time for the Pension Panel Members, which include council leader Russell Roberts and councillor Clayton Willis, to step up to the mark and account for their murderous investment decisions.

RCT councillor Roberts

RCT councillor Roberts

                                

RCT councillor Willis

RCT councillor Willis

     

WELSH ASSEMBLY IN PENSION FUND SCAM

AN EXCLUSIVE REPORT IN TO THE ABUSE OF PUBLIC FUNDS

While most of us will deplore Gazprom’s inhumane decision to stop gas supplies to millions of people across Europe this winter, Welsh assembly members are, no doubt, breathing a sigh of relief that the world’s largest gas extractor is putting profits before lives. That’s because Gazprom is one of the companies included in the National Arsembly for Wales Members’ pension scheme! The scheme, worth £10.5 million, is run by Edinburgh-based Baillie Gifford Life Ltd, which trousered nearly £800,000 last year for investing taxpayers’ money in companies which systematically destroy the environment, are mired in corruption and mistreat their workforce. All so that our hard-working assembly members can enjoy a very handsome payout when they retire.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the fund’s main holdings.

Flooded jungle downstream from the Ok Tedi mine. Courtesy of World Resources Institute

Flooded jungle downstream from the Ok Tedi mine. Courtesy of World Resources Institute

BHP Billitonis the world’s largest mining company. Created in 2001 following the merger of Australia’s Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) and the UK’s Billiton, the company’s worst environmental crimes have been committed in Papua New Guinea where BHP ran the OK Tedi Mine from 1984 to 2002. In 1999 BHP’s boss, Paul Anderson, finally admitted that the project was ‘not compatible with our environmental values‘; rather an understatement considering BHP was discharging 80 million tons of toxic waste into the OK Tedi river system each year affecting 50,000 people in 120 villages downstream. BHP were forced to pay $28.6 million in compensation, but don’t seem to have mended their ways. In January 2007 a further claim for $5 billion was lodged on behalf of 13,000 villagers known as the Ningerum people

In 2006 BHP Billiton became embroiled in the Iraq oil-for-food scandalwhen it emerged that United Nations contracts had been inflated by £4.5 million so that BHP could recover a debt owed by the previous Iraqi regime. Involved in the same scam which impoverished millions of ordinary Iraqis, is another star performer in the Welsh Arsembly pension fund: Atlas Copco, the Swedish industrial company. The 2004 oil-for-food inquiry led by Paul Volcker, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, found that Atlas Copco paid kickbacksfrom both its construction and mining division in Sweden and Airpower, its huge air compressor manufacturing division in Belgium. Airpower paid $1.3 million on sales of $15 million while Atlas Copco CMT paid an undisclosed amount for a $500,000 contract.

The stink of corruption hangs over Vodafone, another major pension fund holding. In 2007 the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) launched an investigation into allegations of corruption involving Vodafone’s activities in Kenya, notably its links to a mysterious Guernsey-registered company called Mobitelea, which was allegedly connected to members of the family of former reviled president, Daniel Arap Moi. Vodafone refused to co-operate with the inquiry and the SFO inquiry was later dropped for reasons of ‘resources’. A year later Vodafone were accused of ‘blatant dishonesty’by the National Consumer Council (NCC) after blocking customers from legitimately quitting their contracts over price rises.

The decapitated Appalachians

The decapitated Appalachians

Following in BHP Billiton’s destructive footsteps is Arch Coal, the second largest US coal producer. Arch Coal practices mountaintop removal mining (MTR) in West Virginia, reducing the height of the Appalachian mountains in the area by 800 feet. As a result vegetation is destroyed and mining waste pours into mountain streams, causing flooding, erosion and water contamination. Due to the huge amount of explosives the company uses, neighbouring communties complain of stray rocks hitting homes, damaged water wells and endless clouds of dust.

As well as mining companies, taxpayers’ money is also being handed out to some of the world’s most notorious oil and gas corporations. Apart from Russian bully Gazprom, the pension fund has holdings in Royal Dutch Shell, Petrobras, the Brazilian giant, and Reliance Industries Ltd, India’s largest private sector conglomerate.

While Shell continue to make record profits, an alliance of human rights and green groups, including Friends of the Earth, estimated the environmental cost of the damage caused by Shell’s irresponsibility at £10 billion. We’re aware of the destruction to the Niger Delta thanks to Ken Saro-Wiwa’s efforts to expose Shell’s crimes, for which the Nigerian writer was executed. Shell has also attracted criticism over its running of the massive Sakhalin II project in Russia and the controversial Corrib gas field development in Ireland.

Meanwhile, Petrobras is doing its very best to destroy the Amazonian rainforest. It currently extracts 35,000 barrels a day from its facilities in Ecuador. However pressure from the Huaorani people, who live in the Yasuni rainforest, has meant that further destruction has been halted temporarily. Not to be outdone, Petrobras is now building a $500 million natural gas pipeline through the rainforest, despite the growing wave of protests.

Reliance Industries Ltd is doing its bit to destroy the environmentand accelarate climate change through its involvement in a multi-billion dollar project to build dams in the Himalayas. ‘Mountains of Concrete’, a report published in December 2008 by International Rivers, a non-governmental organisation which protects rivers and defends the rights of communities that depend on them, concludes that ‘the projects are likely to have huge social, environmental and cultural impacts, impacts that will be especially harsh on locals, tribal people, farmers and others living in the remote valleys of the Himalayas. These projects threaten not only livelihoods but often the very identity and culture of these people.’

Also included in the assembly members’ managed pension fund is United States Steel, which finished second in the Toxic 100, a list of top US air polluters in 2002 compiled by the Political Economy Research Unit of the University of Massachusetts. Another fund holding, US company, Berkshire Hathaway, whose directors include Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, came thirty-fourth.

Our investigations into Hon Hai Precision Industry Company, which trades under the name Foxconn, a Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer, have revealed widespread abuse of workers’ rights. An inspection report commissioned by Apple, a customer of Foxconn, found that workers were forced to work up to an extra 80 hours per month even though labour law restricted over time to 36 hours. A quarter of employees were denied at least one day off a week and workers were punished by being made to stand to attention for long periods of time. 

Of course, no Baillie Gifford pension fund would be complete without a link to the defence industry. Step forward the Taiwan Semi-conductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest dedicated semi-conductor foundry. In a 2006 report entitled ‘Defence Critical Technologies‘ published jointly by the US Defence Department and UK Ministry of Defence, TSMC was on the critical technologies list.

Neither should we exclude British American Tobacco (BAT), whose

Start 'em young!

BAT likes to start 'em young!

shares form part of the pension fund’s UK equities. Last year the company’s activities in Africa were the subject of a BBC2 documentary which found that BAT targets childrenthrough music, competitions and the sale of individual cigarette sticks; practices which broke BAT’s own code of conduct and company standards.

And, finally, we shouldn’t forget the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), whose beginnings date back to Britain’s involvement in the Chinese opium trade. Last December,the US Justice Department expanded its criminal investigation into banks that sell offshore private banking services to include HSBCand Credit Suisse. The investigation centres on allegations that the two banks helped wealthy Americans hide as much as $30 billion in offshore accounts in order to avoid tax. Meanwhile HSBC is growing its private banking division by 24% a year, making over $1.5 billion in 2007.

And when arsembly members plead ignorance over their shameful support for these criminal corporations, don’t believe them. While Baillie Gifford run the scheme, politicians from all parties sit on a board of trustees to which Baillie Gifford report.  Alun ‘greasy wops’ Cairns, the diminutive Tory AM, currently holds the chair; Eleanor Burnham represents the liberals; Carwyn Jones and Rosemary Butler represent labour and Mohammad Asghar is plaid’s man.

Just how are they going to explain themselves?