You would think a General Treasurer who went down the path of socially conscious investing by deciding to have the state pension fund divest from gun distributors might be asked about her own personal investment strategy and whether she avoids supporting morally questionable activities with her stock purchases.
Or you might imagine a candidate for Governor who decided her image needed help and chose to highlight her “regular mom” status, Tweeting a favorite meatloaf recipe and filming a political spot featuring her and the kids biking around Providence, might get a bit of scrutiny if her investment portfolio featured some companies most Rhode Island moms wouldn’t support.
You’d be wrong.
Gina Raimondo’s ethics filings for 2009 and 2010 provide a detailed listing of more than 55 companies that Raimondo and husband Andrew Moffit have holdings in, along with more than 25 companies Raimondo has invested in on her own. (According to the report, the holdings must meet a threshold of a “10% or greater ownership interest or a $5,000 or greater ownership or investment interest”.)
Gradually, that transparent view of the Raimondo portfolio begins to slowly vanish. In the 2011 filing, the joint holdings are still listed out, but Raimondo’s individual holdings are listed as being in a blind trust, with interest income of not more than $1,000. And in the 2012 filing, the listing of joint holdings disappeared, with Raimondo reporting only a blind trust, with income described as capital gains in the $200,001 to $500,000 range. (Interestingly enough, Raimondo chose to dump interest income from Point Judith Capital into a blind trust in 2012 as well.) By 2013, the blind trusts disappear entirely from the filing, apparently because they generated no income.
The change in reporting style apparently helped to stifle any questions that might be raised about the kind of places Raimondo parks her money. Which is a good thing, because some of the more notable holdings in her portfolio can most charitably be called not very mom-like. These include investments in:
- foreign tobacco companies that target young people, distributing samples and creating candy and fruit flavored cigarettes;
- mining companies involved in gang rape, mass killings and forced evictions to displace indigenous populations;
- an Indian bank accused of inhumane collections methods and engaging in illegal money-laundering; and
- a French bank hit with billions in fines for doing business with countries facing US sanctions, such as Sudan and Iran.
Here’s a more detailed run-down on some of her holdings. I haven’t researched every company that showed up on the 2009-2011 ethics filings, so there may be some even more interesting information to found. I would encourage interested persons to have at it. Because on this day, when Raimondo is trotting out campaign surrogates who should know better to insist that Gina isn’t working for Wall Street and that Angel Taveras is a big meanie for saying so, it’s worth taking a close look at her substantial portfolio and the investment choices she has made.
At the end of this campaign cycle, the Big Con of the Raimondo campaign may not be her stubborn refusal to ignore the fact that her signature accomplishment in public life, the so-called “pension reform” law, could be declared invalid by a court, putting us back at square with millions in legal fees down the drain. Instead, it may be Gina Raimondo’s shrill insistence—after taking gobs of campaign money from the John Arnolds and Pete Petersons of the world along with a vast range of financial firms and the lawyers who represent them, after ramping up the state pension fund’s exposure to hedge funds and essentially transferring the savings generated by “pension reform” to shadowy money managers and after investing her own money in companies engaged in morally questionable activities—that she’s just a regular Rhode Island mom and not at all interested in serving the interests of Wall Street.
BRITISH AMERICAN TOBACCO (2009)
“A BBC investigation has found that a British tobacco company is actively targeting young people and teenagers in Africa.”
“The companies insist they only give the samples to adult smokers, but there’s evidence their own rules are not being followed.”
IMPERIAL TOBACCO GROUP (2009)
“It has been in publications with a high readership among young people, and they have had candy and fruit flavours that are attractive to this age group. A very important source for the tobacco industries growth is to target children, and they know it,” Cunningham said.
BARRICK GOLD CORP (2009, 2010)
“Bonasso reproduces heart wrenching storied of gang rape by Barrick’s security guards for the Porgera Mine in Papua New Guinea, mass killings and forced evictions of entire communities and small mining workers being buried alive to force and accommodate Barrick’s operations in projects in Tanzania, which replaced nearly 400,000 local small miners, with a mere few hundred Barrick jobs. Munk allegedly said to a Canadian news source, in relation to the rapes in the South Pacific by Barrick’s security guards, dismissing the event lightly, “Gang rape is a cultural habit”.”
Al Gore has dumped financial backing from controversial Canadian mining company Barrick Gold for his upcoming Santiago event “Global Warming and Climate Change: The Time Has Come to Act.” The Academy Award-winning environmentalist distanced himself from any association with the mining company, which owns the controversial Pascua Lama gold mine.
“Unfortunately, we were never asked to approve Barrick Gold as a cosponsor and as soon as we became aware that they were co sponsors, we asked that they be removed,” Gore’s press spokesperson Kalee Kreider told The Santiago Times. “I was informed that they were removed yesterday.”
IMPALA PLATINUM HOLDINGS, LTD (2009, 2010, 2011)
“Safety is not being given the priority it demands,” the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the country’s biggest Labor federation, said in an e-mailed statement, calling for an end to the “carnage which is still taking place.”
Petroleo Brasileiro SA ADR – Petrobras (2009, 2010, 2011)
Furthermore, Petrobras was among the energy companies accused of pushing “uncontacted” indigenous tribes to extinction in Peru and Ecuador. Indigenous communities are allegedly being driven into remote areas of the Amazon jungle to make way for oil and gas activities that are destroying the ecosystems on which these vulnerable communities depend.
POSCO ADR (2009, 2010, 2011)
Last week, a United Nations expert panel issued a harsh report expressing concern over the construction of a $12 billion steel project in Odisha, India, financed by the South Korean steel conglomerate POSCO. The project reportedly threatens to forcibly displace over 22,000 people and disrupt the livelihoods of many thousands more. The forests and fields now claimed by the Indian government to build the sprawling project have long been occupied by locals, who rely on the land for their livelihoods.
CHINA NATIONAL OFFSHORE OIL CORPORATION, or CNOOC (2009, 2010, 2011)
The decision-making process surrounding the CNOOC-Nexen deal lacked transparency, and was devoid of the consultation mandated in cases of foreign takeovers. The considerations on which the decision was based were essentially of an economic character. Human rights considerations do not appear to have been factored into the decision at all.
Hutchison Whampoa Ltd ADR (Hong Kong)
Li’s connections to the Chinese government and military are well documented. Trent Lott, in fact, called Li Ka-shing’s company, Hutchison Whampoa, an “arm of the PLA [People’s Liberation Army].” Documents from U.S. embassies all over the world have shown that Li: helped the PLA finance communication networks, accepted $400 million from the Chinese government for Hutchison Whampoa, and entered a real estate deal with Chinese president Jiang Zemin. U.S. Commerce Department documents show Li owns 25 percent of a firm run by the Chinese air force and one-third of Asiasat, which is owned in part by the Chinese army.
ICICI Bank (2009, 2010, 2011)
Inhuman debt recovery methods
A few years after its rise to prominence in the banking sector, ICICI bank faced allegations on the recovery methods it used against loan payment defaulters. A number of cases were filed against the bank and its employees for using “brutal measures” to recover the money. Most of the allegations were that the bank was using goons to recover the credit card payments and that these “recovery agents” exhibited inappropriate and in some cases, inhuman behavior. Incidents were reported wherein the defaulters were put to “public shame” by the recovery agents.
The bank also faced allegations of inappropriate behavior in recovering its loans. These allegations started initially when the “recovery agents” and bank employees started threatening the defaulters. In some cases, notes written by the bank’s employees asking the defaulters to “sell everything in the house including family members”, were found. Such charges faced by the bank rose to a peak when suicide cases were reported wherein the suicide notes spoke of the Bank’s recovery methods as the cause of the suicide. This led to a lot of legal battles and the bank paying huge compensations.
Money laundering allegations
ICICI Bank was one of the leading Indian banks accused of blatant money laundering through violation of RBI guidelines in the famous CobraPost sting operation which shook up Indian banking industry during April–May 2013.
On 14 March 2013 the online magazine Cobrapost released video footage from Operation Red Spider showing high-ranking officials and some employees of ICICI Bank agreeing to convert black money into white, an act in violation of Money Laundering Control Act. The Government of India and Reserve Bank of India ordered an inquiry following the exposé. On 15 March 2013, ICICI Bank suspended 18 employees, pending inquiry. On 11 April 2013 Deputy Governor of RBI, H R Khan reportedly told that the central bank is initiating action against ICICI Bank in connection with allegations of money laundering.
BNP Paribas (2009, 2010, 2011)
BNP Paribas was hit with a record $8.9B fine for doing business with countries that face US sanctions, such as Sudan and Iran. The French bank pled guilty to criminal charges and state and federal authorities called the bank the worst offender of several which had settled cases. The wrong-doing was significant in scope, ranging from 2002-2012, when American regulators were already investigating such violations.
RIO TINTO (2009, 2010, 2011)
A British and Australian multinational corporation in metals and mining. The Government of Norway divested itself from Rio Tinto shares and banned further investment due to concerns about damage to the environment done by the company’s operations, most notably the Grasbert mine in Indonesia. There have also been labor and safety issues raised about Rio Tinto’s operations. In January of 2010, the company locked out nearly 600 workers from a mine in Boron, CA after they rejected a contract proposal claiming it would scrap their seniority system and allow Rio Tinto to hire non-union employees. (The workers were represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.