The Armenian National Committee of America Eastern Region (ANCA-ER) joined with Investors Against Genocide (IAG) on Tuesday in urging mutual fund giant Fidelity Investments to avoid investments in companies with ties to genocidal regimes worldwide.
Michelle Hagopian, ANCA Eastern Region Executive Director, and ANC of Eastern Massachusetts activist Dikran Kaligian represented the ANCA at Fidelity’s June 18th shareholder meeting as part of an outspoken group of anti-genocide advocates.
Six mutual funds recorded votes at Fidelity’s shareholder meeting on the proposal presented by Investors Against Genocide, which states “Shareholders request that the Board institute transparent procedures to prevent holding investments in companies that, in management’s judgment, substantially contribute to genocide or crimes against humanity, the most egregious violations of human rights.” These funds bring to 40 the number of Fidelity funds that have had “genocide-free investing” on their proxy ballot.
Tuesday’s preliminary voting results in favor of the proposal ranged from a high of 29.19% to a low of 24.13%, which are comparable to results on similar proposals at Fidelity in 2008 and 2009.
“Fidelity continues to own large positions in PetroChina, a company widely recognized as the largest business partner of the government of Sudan which is currently bombing, starving and displacing massive numbers of its own civilians in several regions,” said Eric Cohen, chairperson of Investors Against Genocide.
“This year marks 10 years of the genocide in Darfur, and it is the fifth year that Fidelity has opposed genocide-free investing. As a result, people investing with Fidelity are still inadvertently linked to companies tied to the atrocities in Sudan,” he said.
Fidelity’s website claims, “We are sensitive to the ongoing tragedy occurring in Darfur and, like most others in the world, we are repulsed by genocide and all other crimes against humanity. … That said, we have concluded that when it is appropriate to remain actively invested in a company, we will do so, thus retaining the ability to oppose company practices that we do not condone.”
“Fidelity’s anti-genocide statements need to be backed up by concrete action,” said Hagopian. “Tuesday’s shareholder meeting showed that millions of Americans want their investments to be genocide-free. Mutual funds are the most common investment vehicle for family savings and retirement plans in America. The ANCA and IAG will continue to speak out at these shareholder meetings as part of an international campaign to end all financial support for genocidal regimes.”
Although federal law prevents U.S. oil companies (and most other U.S. companies) from operating in Sudan, Fidelity and other American financial institutions are major investors in the foreign oil companies involved in Sudan that are helping to fund that government’s continued genocide and crimes against humanity. As a result, ordinary investors, through their mutual funds, family savings, and pension plans entrusted to these financial institutions, are inadvertently investing in genocide.
IAG, a Boston-based nonprofit organization coordinating the anti-genocide shareholder action at Fidelity and other financial institutions, including Vanguard, JPMorgan Chase, and Franklin Resources, is engaged in an effort to encourage legislation and regulatory changes to address investments in companies that help to fund genocide.
In March, the ANCA San Francisco-Bay Area teamed up with IAG to advance a similar anti-genocide proposal to shareholders at Franklin Resources, the parent company of Franklin Templeton mutual funds.