Shareholders approve proposal by wide margin; ING remains neutral on proxy ballot
SCOTTSDALE, AZ – JUNE 29, 2012 –Shareholders approved the genocide-free investing proposal on the ballot of the ING Emerging Countries Fund in a lopsided vote, yesterday. The proposal passed with 59.25% voting in favor, 10.84% voting against the proposal and the remainder abstaining, according to preliminary results provided by ING. Of the voters who did not abstain, 84% voted in favor of genocide-free investing, a level of support that closely matches research findings showing that the vast majority of Americans want to avoid investments tied to genocide. This convincing win at ING is a first for the genocide-free investing proposal.
ING did not issue a management recommendation regarding how shareholders should vote on the proposal on its proxy ballot. Unlike earlier votes on genocide-free investing at Fidelity, Vanguard and JPMorgan Chase, the ING ballot is the first time a company has elected to remain neutral on the proposal. By remaining neutral, instead of actively opposing the proposal as other financial firms have done, the opinions of individual shareholders were more accurately represented in the vote tallies and resulted in this clear win for the proposal.
“Shareholder approval of the genocide-free investing proposal at the ING Emerging Countries Fund demonstrates that the vast majority of individuals want to avoid investments tied to genocide. Instead of skewing the vote by opposing the proposal as other financial firms have done, ING remained neutral allowing the will of the shareholders to be accurately reflected as shown by the strong level of support.”
ING had sought to exclude the proposal by appealing for “no action” relief at the Securities and Exchange Commission, but the SEC sided with Investors Against Genocide in determining that the proposal merited inclusion.
ING Emerging Countries Fund will be merging into the ING Emerging Markets Equity Fund. The two funds own $2.7 million of PetroChina, Sinopec (China Petroleum & Chemical Corp.) and ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corp.), three companies widely recognized as contributing to the genocide in Sudan. Currently, half a million people in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions of Sudan are facing relentless aerial attacks, violent displacement, and starvation due to the Sudanese government’s ongoing military assaults. Ongoing government-sponsored genocide in Sudan has spanned more than two decades and resulted in the death of over 2.5 million innocent civilians.
The genocide-free investing shareholder proposal voted on at ING requests “that the board institute procedures to holding investments in companies that, in the judgment of the Board, substantially contribute to genocide or crimes against humanity, the most egregious violations of human rights.” The proposal was submitted to ING as part of an ongoing shareholder action led by Investors Against Genocide, a citizen-led initiative, dedicated to convincing mutual funds and other investment firms to make a commitment to genocide-free investing.
IAG withdrew its shareholder proposal at TIAA-CREF when it adopted a public policy against investments tied to genocide. TIAA-CREF subsequently divested holdings in oil companies that are helping to support the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. American Funds divested its holdings in PetroChina following a well-publicized shareholder vote on genocide-free investing there.
Investors Against Genocide is a citizen-led initiative, dedicated to convincing mutual funds and other investment firms to make an ongoing commitment to genocide-free investing. Investors Against Genocide works with individuals, financial firms, pension and endowment managers and government officials to encourage investment firms to change their investing strategy to avoid investments in companies that substantially contribute to genocide or crimes against humanity. Investors Against Genocide is staffed by volunteers and is a project of the Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization, incorporated in the state of Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.investorsagainstgenocide.org.