TAMING THE TIGER
by T.L. Mumley
Investment share price isn’t the only “value” that counts!
How do we make socially and environmentally responsible investments within an irresponsible economic standard?
With the rising public awareness of corruption in our political and financial system, people are rethinking how to manage their money. Entire campaigns have been put in place to help people divest from Wall Street into more localized main street banks and credit unions.
But Wall Street might not be all we want to consider divesting from.
It is not merely where people’s money sits, but what specifically they are investing in which makes them uncomfortable. How do we meet our economic objectives, while holding true to our ethical objectives? The abiding moral lessons of such movies as Wall Street and Jerry Maguire come crashing through the veneer of values many Americans absorb like osmosis through what have become clichés: “greed is good,” all are “equal before the law,” or even the tired expression we are a “free nation.”
In Jerry Maguire, the sports agent looked at as the evil of that industry; taking on whatever money gouging—materialistic tactics necessary to squeeze the client. The client screaming, “Show me the money,” awakening a deep social and moral consciousness of the agent. The movie Wall Street displayed the corruption of the stock world with illegal trading and ruthless, greedy corporations.
The underlying message in both movies is not unlike what many of us are looking for today; more ethical and compassionate, if not more humanitarian ways of earning money. Like the characters in these movies, we question our self-awareness of our own role in shaping society, our children’s futures. How are my investments affecting the social good of society?
Many of us who own stocks do so through mutual funds and have no control over what the manager buys. If it isn’t entirely illegal, it may find its way into our investment portfolio. With these actively managed funds, we trust our Financial Advisors at brokerage firms even more so than ourselves. They are the experts in investing. They know what generates a good return better than us.
While this may be true, is a return on investment the only thing we should be concerned with? If we do not comb through our client statements, they may contain sin stocks we are none too proud to own. Such stocks may include social undesirables (tobacco, firearms etc.), belong to problematic industries (defense, nuclear, chemical etc.), or engage in poor behavior (environmental degradation, war profiteering, human rights violation)
In other words, we could be investing against our own morals and wish to make a positive impact on society, instead of a negative one.
When we tell our Financial Advisors we would like to divest in these sin stocks and choose more socially and environmentally responsible investments, we may hear, “my job is to make money for my clients, and this is where the money is now.” With this shortsighted incentive, if our portfolio grows, the Financial Advisor is the one who profits the most. Here lies the endless vicious cycle of these money manipulators controlling markets, our investments, and hence our nation in the wrong direction.
At this rate, we may never invest in world peace. However, the good news is that Wall Street big banks are starting to realize it’s possible to drop oil without dropping returns, and they are increasingly interested in sustainable investing.
Many of us wish to invest with a stronger moral philosophy, with the intent to get off the revolting track of perpetual foreign aggression, dirty energy, and overall social degradation. We want to invest more in environmental sustainability, international human rights, community involvement and safer products, fair and safe workplaces. We wish to invest in companies that cut pollution.
But who drives investor confidence? Not those of us with E-Trade accounts or besieged portfolios with brokerage firms, trying desperately to grow them to try to afford college for our children. With prices of a college education in America rising to astounding levels due to unwarranted budget cuts across our schools to allow those sin stocks to profit. There’s a direct correlation, while many nations have free college tuition. It’s the big investment banks manipulating unprincipled investor choices.
International investment banks on Wall Street are making tens of billions per year on such marketing derivatives referred to as “financial weapons of mass destruction.” Why have we experienced such a financial meltdown? Because of this structure, driven by the blind accumulation of profit based on exploitation—and backed by massive military force.
Meanwhile, over the past four decades, financial and political elites have become immunized from the rule of law, empowered to commit felonies with full-scale impunity to act without constraint, while ordinary Americans are imprisoned with greater ease and greater numbers than any other country on the planet.
While not considered a Wall Street bank, the Wells Fargo scandal is an example of socially irresponsible actions, with the bank pressuring its employees to commit millions of acts of fraud against its customers while getting away with it for at least five years.
Now, after “investing” multi-trillions of dollars in obstructive directions, investors around the globe have lost faith in U.S. bonds, with the policymakers in Washington yet to show some sense of responsibility.
Blinded by ideology, many did not see the writing on the wall—until over 95 cities across 82 countries, and at least 600 communities in the U.S. protested against Wall Street. But if Congress is unwilling to act against this “too big to fail” financial crisis, we need to take power into our own hands.
As responsible parents, citizens, and do-gooders, one thing we can do to try to change the world for the better is to divest in any of those sin stocks and switch to Socially Responsible Investing (SRI). SRI looks at stocks based on social or environmental characteristics, rather than solely short-term financial performance. It’s a way of taking your beliefs and values and applying them to the stocks you purchase, supporting our country in the best light possible. Welcome to the new dimension of doing our civic duty.
Wall Street corruption has cost Americans over 8 million jobs, especially jobs helping us move in the right direction. Recent college grads have declined job offers based on his or her moral beliefs. Those students may not have intended to earn a degree in Sustainability & Environmental Engineering to design robotics warfare and nuclear energy. Or risk their lives upon graduation to be sent to Afghanistan to clean up the toxic mess our needless foreign policy has left behind.
Like the main character in the movie Jerry Maguire, that college grad is looking for deeper purpose and a more satisfying existence. To help propel our nation away from this destructive behavior.
Switching to an SRI may seem like a risk, especially with this money market manipulation going on. But we cannot continue to let our personal financial advisors or Wall Street lead us away from forward-thinking investing. There are people making billions off the disorder around the world. The only way to unveil the real villains is to follow the money.
One such villain sits in the Oval Office, behind a big desk claiming he is trying to “make America great again.”
There are over 100 mutual funds which buy only stocks that pass screenings for being socially responsible. Here are some examples:
Socially Responsible in General: Domini, Calvert Group (Java), PAX World Fund
Environmentally-Oriented: Green Century and New Alternatives
Cruelty-Free (no animal abuse): Cruelty Free Value Fund
Women-Oriented: Women’s Equity
Gay/Lesbian-Orinted: Meyers Pride Value Fund
Water-Related: Summit Global
It is to all our benefit to start investing with our hearts, not merely our wallets— and help reign in this money monster. We need to replace the paper tiger with a real one showing authentic teeth.