Thursday, September 25, 2008

Clear conscience?

When I read that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York were criticising "short selling", I did wonder if they might rue the day they brought up the subject. The Church of England have a very large investment portfolio, which is carefully managed.

Indeed, now Ekklesia have highlighted some interesting points:

Ekklesia weighed into the debate on the ethics of financial investments and stock market speculation in response to comments made by senior clerics in the wake of the recent banking crisis.

Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu branded the traders who cashed in on falling share prices in troubled bank HBOS as "bank robbers" and "asset strippers", while Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams called for fresh scrutiny and regulation of the financial world.

But the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia claimed that in 2006, the Church Commissioners, which manages the Church of England's investments, set up a currency hedging programme that hedged against a fall in the value of sterling, effectively short-selling the British pound to guard against rises in other currencies. The think-tank also criticised the Church for its shareholdings in oil and mining companies.

... A spokesman for the Church of England denied it was involved in any short-selling and said the currency hedging programme was aimed at protecting its investments rather than speculating on them.

He said: "The Commissioners do not short equities, nor have they delegated any shorting powers to their external equities fund managers. They do not have any exposure to hedge funds that short stocks, either. The currency hedging programme, set up in 2007, is designed to protect the sterling value of the Commissioners' foreign currency denominated assets.

"The Commissioners invest in a wide range of equities, including those of mining, oil and financial companies, as part of a broadly diversified asset base and in compliance with the ethical investment policy as recommended by the Church of England's Ethical Investment Advisory Group."

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