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Cluster f*&k on cluster bombs

Written By: - Date published: 9:34 am, August 19th, 2016 - 64 comments
Categories: capitalism, International, kiwisaver, national, Politics, same old national, war - Tags: , , ,

Cluster bomb

Julie Anne Genter from the Greens has raised an important issue.  It appears that many Kiwisaver funds have investments in the manufacturers of cluster bombs.

Put to one side the morality of this sort of investment there are also legal issues which cannot be ignored.

Under section 10 of the Cluster Munitions Prohibition Act 2009 a person commits an offence who “provides or invests funds with the intention that the funds be used, or knowing that they are to be used, in the development or production of cluster munitions”.  The potential penalty is a jail term not exceeding 7 years or a fine not exceeding $500,000, or both.

There was this fascinating exchange between Genter and Paul Goldsmith in Parliament yesterday about the issue.

Genter managed to Goldsmith to concede that there may be a risk that the Act applies.  There should be panic in the Beehive right now in assessing the implications of this.

So we have this strange situation where there is a law banning investment in the manufacture of these weapons yet there is tacit support by the Government of entities which are investing in the manufacture of cluster bombs.  And now that the news is out there are potentially many ordinary kiwis who now know that further contributions to their Kiwisaver accounts are being used for this purpose and this may arguably mean they are breaking the law by depositing further funds.

And what about the Crown?  It is bound by the Act.  Every time the Crown contributes to someone’s Kiwisaver account who then invests in cluster bomb manufacturers it may be complicit in the breach of the Act.

John Key is relaxed about the situation.

From Radio New Zealand yesterday:

The government is dismissing concerns about some KiwiSaver funds being invested in companies making bombs and mines, with Prime Minister John Key saying it is up to individuals to find out where their money is going.

RNZ revealed today that at least five of the nine default KiwiSaver providers invest in anti-personnel mine and cluster bomb manufacturers, despite it being illegal for government agencies to invest in them themselves.

Hundreds of thousands of KiwiSaver members might be unknowingly investing in those companies, and the Green Party and Amnesty International have called on the government to review default providers that might have investments in these weapons.

But the Prime Minister said it was not a big enough issue to review default providers.

Mr Key said the onus was on each individual investor to find out where their money was going.

“Some KiwiSaver managers will have a different view on those issues, they’ll set the demarcation line in the different place, it just depends on who they are.”

Key may be relaxed on the issue but I suggest that you contact your Kiwisaver provider and ask if they manage any funds that do not invest in cluster bombs and transfer all your savings into those funds. Or find an ethical Kiwisaver provider.  It looks like Kiwibank’s Kiwiwealth scheme may qualify.

64 comments on “Cluster f*&k on cluster bombs”

  1. Note that even Radio NZ doesn’t even provide people with the context that it’s a crime to invest in cluster munitions. That is a highly necessary part of the story, media! Otherwise the National Party defense actually looks semi-reasonable.

    I’m not exactly steeped in the relevant law, but even I knew that from following the news on negotiations when they were happening in NZ. I would expect that there at least one person in the National Party that’s aware of this fact, and if any of them actually made either Goldsmith or Key aware of that fact, then they are in some legal hot water, as they would have a duty to correct any illegal investments as soon as they are made aware.

    Frankly it’s astounding and untenable that they are running the line that these are moral issues as opposed to legal ones.

    • mickysavage 1.1

      Yep up until yesterday I don’t think it would be a legal problem but now many will know that any further payment they make may end up manufacturing a cluster bomb.

      And this applies also to Crown payments into individual accounts.

      • I think the primary issue is indeed that the government now is obliged to cease payments to those kiwisaver accounts that are known to have invested in cluster munitions. (And technically, any payment made now that Paul Goldsmith is aware of that fact, would make him liable to imprisonment for a significant length of time, and therefore would vacate his seat) I’ll go ahead and assume that the fact that investing in cluster munitions is illegal excuses the government from its obligations to top up those kiwisaver accounts, as a well-constructed law should have made that clear,

        It’s a pretty long road to try and prove that individuals who sign up to or switch to the relevant kiwisaver providers are themselves commiting a crime, (as you have to establish their awareness of the illegal investments) but investigations should immediately be launched into each of the kiwisaver providers by the relevant authorities if the government takes the law seriously, to see if those individuals responsible for investment decisions were made aware that they were investing in cluster munitions, and if not, whether they have withdrawn those investments or at least initiated their own investigations following the revelation that they are investing in cluster munitions.

    • AmaKiwi 1.2

      Justice, National style.

      Piss us off and we’ll turn the authorities on you (Nicky Hager, etc.) and use tax paid prosecutors to financially ruin you. But we always protect our friends in banking, farming, construction, etc., from prosecution.

      The difference between National and a corrupt dictatorship is . . . ?

      • Leftie 1.2.1

        None… there is no difference. National and a corrupt dictatorship are one and the same.

      • I absolutely think you’re right that much of this is about trying to deflect attention from the illegality issue and shield their friends in finance.

        I don’t really expect that they would see this as corruption or perversion of justice, even though it plainly is, as they see such actions as routine in the running of a country, and think the left engages in them as well, regardless of evidence.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.3

      Frankly it’s astounding and untenable that they are running the line that these are moral issues as opposed to legal ones.

      Our laws should support ethical actions and make unethical ones illegal. This seems to be what this law does in making owning shares that manufacture cluster munitions illegal.

      Personally, I think we need a law that prohibits any NZer from owning shares in any business that produces weapons of war and policing, i.e, there’s an exception for weapons used for sporting. People should not be able to make a profit from death.

      • Well, they’re right that not every thing that the public find unethical should be illegal to be invested in, or illegal for government to invest in. But it is fair to single out things like nuclear weapons, tobacco, cluster munitions, etc… as having had a clear moral decision already made by the majority of the public, and that at least the government should not invest in them.

        • Draco T Bastard 1.3.1.1

          Why should that which the public consider unethical be allowed to be produced?

          • Matthew Whitehead 1.3.1.1.1

            There’s a line between things that are morally repugnant, like tobacco, and things that are merely a matter of opinion, like say, prostitution, pornography, or gambling. I’m saying that there is a legitimate distinction to be drawn, the government’s just not drawing it in the right place. So their rhetoric is fair, it just doesn’t apply here.

  2. Nessalt 2

    So the greens have done what Labour haven’t managed in almost 9 years. Landed a hit on a government minister in parliament through a well constructed set of questions.

    Well done Julie. Greens really are the major opposition party.

    • Sanctuary 2.1

      Actually they are the junior partner in an accord, but thanks for coming.

      • Nessalt 2.1.1

        Haha “Junior”

        That implies they have some thing to learn from “Senior”

        IF the greens want to learn how to destroy their electoral chances and alienate their wider support base then they should be Junior.

        Labour can’t govern without the greens. at all. the greens have never been in government but have been very effective in opposition. So for them, there is only upside and they can do whatever they like. Labour on the other hand now have to pander to the greens and to their own wider support base. Two things that aren’t perfectly compatible. Given Labours tendency to talk ineffectively out of both sides of it’s mouth on any issue, i’d say that this won’t end well for them come campaign time.

        Move along Sonny.

    • maninthemiddle 2.2

      A ‘hit’? You’re kidding, surely? Did you watch the clip MS posted? Genter is a whiner, and got increasingly frustrated as Goldsmith schooled her on who actually makes these decisions. These funds are ours, not the governments, and certainly not Julie Anne Genter’s. We should be able to choose to invest them in any legal activity we like. If the activity is not legal, then, as Goldsmith explained, there are consequences. As there should be.

      But oh how the melons would LOVE to get their hands on this money!!!

      • George Hendry 2.2.1

        ‘Did you watch the clip MS posted? Genter is a whiner, and got increasingly frustrated as Goldsmith schooled her on who actually makes these decisions’.

        Thank you for your personal attack on Ms Genter, and your description of her alleged emotional state.

        Along with the absence of analysis of any facts, you concede having no point.

        • maninthemiddle 2.2.1.1

          It’s not a personal attack, it’s an informed opinion. The recent revelations of Green MP’s KiwiSaver investments destroy her credibility utterly. I rest my case.

      • Gabby 2.2.2

        She got pissed off at his stonewalling, muginamuddle.

      • mickysavage 2.2.3

        MITM

        Did you read the bit how it is illegal to invest in cluster bomb manufacturers?

        • maninthemiddle 2.2.3.1

          So you claim. I don’t know whether it is or not, but those are decisions for investors and their fund managers, not meddling MP’s.

      • DoublePlusGood 2.2.4

        You clearly weren’t paying attention. She set him up well through the series of questions, and then backed him into a corner where he had to say there was a legal issue.
        Goldsmith was the one who was floundering.

        • George Hendry 2.2.4.1

          Yes, DPG, it looked like that to me as well.

          Is that why her ‘increasing frustration’ included some quiet smiles?

          Experienced opposition questioners know by now that they have to keep at it, without a single slip-up, until the scripted answers run out, at which point the ums and ahs kick in, as they did. The paper shuffling at that point was quite telling.

          To Mr Goldsmith’s credit he didn’t attempt to ‘get some guts’ by throwing a dead cat on the table, which the Speaker will excuse especially when the Rank Insiders do it and which might distract the questioner with the stink.

        • Leftie 2.2.4.2

          +1 DoublePlusGood, Yes she did, and Goldman was floundering alright. I also liked the way Grant Robinson backed up Julie Anne Genter, and rammed home the point that it breaks the law and carries a jail term and substantial monetary fine.

        • maninthemiddle 2.2.4.3

          Rubbish. She gave herself away when she couldn’t grasp the concept of investor choice.

          • Leftie 2.2.4.3.1

            So breaking the law has no meaning whatsoever then?
            It is obvious that you and reality don’t know each other Maninthemiddle.

            • maninthemiddle 2.2.4.3.1.1

              If any law has been broken, then I’m sure the authorities will get involved.

      • Leftie 2.2.5

        You don’t see and hear too good from the planet you live on Maninthemiddle.

  3. shorts 3

    this is an interesting issue – one that really divides the kinds of people we are… on one hand we have the “I’ve got mine fuck youse” mob who see nothing wrong with making money as long as its legal (or you’re not caught I’d imagine – eh tax cheats) so cluster bomb, tobacco, booze, munitions, oil, houses or whatever investment is all good as long as its returning a profit… and on the other there are those that want investments and our nation to be honest, upstanding and moral members of the global community – do less harm than good at the very minimum

    We can’t be surprised when those that stand for wealth show they don’t care and can see nothing wrong with the fine lines they happily traverse in the pursuit of more wealth….

    For some its a question of humanity…. for others its simply PR

  4. corokia 4

    National will be waiting for polling/focus groups/public opinion before deciding what to do here. Oooh look, Olympics, medals……maybe this one will sink and no one will notice, if not, wait for the U-turn next week.

  5. The Chairman 5

    Amnesty International wants the Government to review the default funds with a view of putting in the same standards used by the New Zealand Superannuation Fund.

    Why weren’t such standards put in place when the scheme was initially setup?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1

      I’m not sure what higher standard there is than a section in the Crimes Act. “You must obey the provisions in the Crimes Act” seems a fairly redundant instruction to anyone but National Party Ministers of the Crown.

      In any case, people who make the bad choice to be blown up by cluster bombs really need to stop pretending that the government can solve anything. Look, a gold medal!

      • The Chairman 5.1.1

        Nevertheless, if such standards were put in place when the scheme was initially setup, then default providers would have had to meet that criteria (ensuring there was robust on-going oversight) preventing millions of dollars being invested in unethical and potentially illegal investment.

        • Well, to some extent this is due to the overly friendly way the cluster munitions act is worded, in that it requires knowledge or intention for investing in cluster munitions to be a crime, thus technically an investor doesn’t need to take any pro-active steps to ensure they’re not investing in cluster munitions. (rather, it should be a defense that an individual could not reasonably know, so that you can still prosecute people who play dumb)

          Nothing’s technically wrong with the way that Kiwisaver itself is set up, other than perhaps that it’s made deliberately hard to understand where your funds are invested by many providers. The other, more recent laws should be the ones that oblige investors to avoid cluster munitions.

          (That said, it would definitely be good practice for the government to kick out default providers who don’t meet the NZ Super requirements, I agree. But in a sensible world it shouldn’t need to be in the law)

          • The Chairman 5.1.1.1.1

            Nevertheless, if such standards were put in place when the scheme was initially setup, providers would have had to take pro-active steps to maintain their default provider status. Thus, avoiding the current dilemma.

            In turn, investors wouldn’t have had to take any pro-active steps to be assured they’re not.

            Evidently, the initial setup of the scheme was lacking this investor protection. Moreover, it (millions of dollars unwittingly being invested in unethical and potentially illegal investment) clearly highlights why it should have initially been in the regulations/law.

          • the pigman 5.1.1.1.2

            “this is due to the overly friendly way the cluster munitions act is worded, in that it requires knowledge or intention for investing in cluster munitions to be a crime”

            You’re right, let’s just ditch the mental component of criminal offending altogether. It’s fair enough to subject people to criminal penalties for acts of others that they have no knowledge of, or intention in relation to, right?

            “overly friendly” T^T

            • Matthew Whitehead 5.1.1.1.2.1

              Actually mental components of criminal law ARE notoriously difficult to prove, wheras in law the “reasonable person” test is quite standard and easy. I can understand applying a mental test to the personal investor, (which is likely who the law is intended to capture) but it makes no sense to apply it to someone whose job is in the financial sector. Those people should know how to avoid illegal investments and it ought to be part of their job to do so proactively. If the goal is to prevent investment in cluster munitions, those in the financial services industry should be held to a higher standard and not permitted the defense that they didn’t know.

              I am happy for mental components of crimes to exist for crimes where widespread prosecution for an act isn’t the intent of the act being a crime, but it’s poor law to add a mental component when the threat of prosecution is intended as a deterrent from undesirable behaviour.

              Such a test wouldn’t prosecute people who unwittingly invested in cluster munitions while researching their investments with some care. It WOULD make someone guilty if they run an investment firm and didn’t even check whether they were investing in cluster munitions, or were not aware they needed to check for illegal investments, either of which I think is reasonable. Hell, it would probably let a personal investor off the hook, as most reasonable people don’t research their investments for arms companies.

  6. AmaKiwi 6

    “I’m comfortable with that” now applies to the Crown (you and me) breaking its own law and being liable for a fine of $500,000!

    • Leftie 6.1

      John key is always “comfortable” about breaking laws, make him pay for it out of his own pocket.

      • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1

        And the rest of the government. $500, 000 from each of them could go quite aways to getting our children out of poverty,

    • Macro 6.2

      Key continues to display his complete lack of moral development and social responsibility. That he is comfortable in investing in nuclear weapons, cluster bombs and the like, demonstrates yet again that he is not fit to be the Prime Minister of a country which has legislation forbidding the use and deployment of such weapons.
      That so many of the country’s sheeple support such a lackadaisical man in such a responsible position speaks volumes as to the moral values that are now concomitant in our society. Shame on us.

  7. Leftie 7

    Great work from Julie Ann Genter, but this has been raised before and yet nothing changes.

    KiwiSaver, cluster bombs, mines and nukes

    ROB STOCK
    Last updated 05:00, August 23 2015

    Westpac bank is reviewing its KiwiSaver scheme’s investments, after being alerted to stakes it holds in certain companies on the New Zealand Super Fund’s “exclusion” list.

    The NZ Super Fund’s exclusion list includes nine companies which it has tagged as being involved in the manufacture and supply of “cluster munitions” and, or “anti-personnel mines”.

    But the latest annual disclosure statements from KiwiSaver schemes, show three of those excluded companies appeared in popular KiwiSaver growth funds.

    In addition, ANZ and BNZ KiwiSaver growth funds each hold one of the excluded companies, but these banks defended those investments.

    The firms are US companies General Dynamics, excluded under the “cluster munitions” category, and Northrop Grumman, excluded under the “anti-personnel mines” category, as well as Singapore Technologies Engineering, excluded under both.

    The NZ Super Fund pays MSCI ESG Research to examine stockmarket-listed companies, and excluded stocks based on its reports.

    The KiwiSaver disclosure statements, dated the end of March, show ANZ’s KiwiSaver growth fund had a holding in Northrop Grumman, Westpac’s KiwiSaver growth fund had Northrop Grumman and Singapore Technologies Engineering, and BNZ’s growth fund had General Dynamics.

    Each make up only a small proportion of the funds’ total investments.

    Westpac, which invests through external fund managers, said it was “making enquiries with our third party investment managers to understand if it is possible to introduce restrictions regarding certain assets.”

    That would bring it into line with the Kiwi Wealth KiwiSaver scheme of state-owned Kiwibank, which uses “negative screening” to weed out armament makers, and holds none of the NZ Super Fund’s excluded companies.

    But both ANZ and BNZ said their external managers had assured them their KiwiSaver funds contained no companies involved with cluster bombs or mines.

    BNZ said Russell Investments had assured it that General Dynamics was not involved in the manufacture of cluster munitions, and ANZ said: “Our managers have advised us that there are no red flags for cluster munitions or landmines” for Northrop Grumman.

    Michael Salvatico from MSCI ESG Research, which has around 150 ESG analysts around the world, said Northrop Grumman was involved in the development of the Spider anti-personnel munitions system ( http://www.ausa.org/publications/armymagazine/archive/2014/Documents/12December14/SoldierArmed_December2014.pdf ), which was remotely controlled by an operator.

    It is being developed specifically to replace anti-personnel mines, which stay in the ground harming civilians long after conflict has ended.

    A NZ Super Fund spokesman said: “We understand that there are different views around their man-in-the-loop system, but it is our view that the company’s involvement in the manufacture of land mines is material enough to warrant exclusion under our responsible investment framework.”

    Salvatico said: “I can confirm that our research indicates General Dynamics currently manufactures munitions dispensing systems for the Sensor Fuzed Weapon (SFW), an air-dropped cluster munition weapons system. This classifies them as a component manufacturer with Strong Evidence. The assessment of Strong Evidence indicates involvement in the last three years with no ambiguity.”

    General Dynamics’ website says it “is not, to the best of our knowledge” involved in activities which breach the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Convention on the Prohibition of Use, Stockpiling, Production, And Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines”.

    Again, it seems there is debate over what is a cluster munition.

    The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund also excludes General Dynamics under the category of “production of cluster munitions”.

    As with the other companies, NZ Super Fund excludes under these two categories, but accepts the controversial weapons make up a small part of their business.

    A growing number of investors want their superannuation savings to reflect their beliefs, said Salvatico. “Super is your voice,” he said. “You can use it now.”

    Academic Matheson Russell has called for the Government to at least require KiwiSaver default funds to be socially responsible investors, and says KiwiSaver funds could be banned from investing in companies on the NZ Super Fund’s exclusion list, though this would need to be debated.

    It has however been very profitable to invest in defence stocks.

    The annualised return investors have had from the MSCI World Aerospace and Defense Index in US dollars has been 10.28 per cent, compared to an annualised return of 6.2 per cent on the MSCI World Index.

    <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/71324537/kiwisaver-cluster-bombs-mines-and-nukes

    But it’s not as if companies cannot be weeded out….

    ” MSCI’s research is used by some fund managers to weed out companies that are polluters, exploiters of human misery, or are involved in certain controversial industries.”

    “The New Zealand Super Fund, which looks after nearly $30 billion of pension money for the Government, uses MSCI to identify and avoid companies involved with certain weapons (cluster munitions, anti-personnel mines, and nuclear bombs), as well as tobacco companies, gross polluters, and those which have breached human rights.”

    KiwiSaver and ethical investing

    ROB STOCK
    Last updated 05:00, August 26 2015

    <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/71417033/kiwisaver-and-ethical-investing

    NZ Super Fund has deadly portfolio

    TIM HUNTER AND STEVE KILGALLON
    Last updated 05:00 03/08/2014

    <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/10341818/NZ-Super-Fund-has-deadly-portfolio

    And despite the National government freezing govt contributions in 2009….

    NZ Super Fund annual return nearly 18 pc
    Last updated 16:15 21/03/2013

    <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/8456252/NZ-Super-Fund-annual-return-nearly-18-pc

    • McFlock 7.1

      Well, I’ve emailed my fund to check. Might have to move to another plan if they don’t have an ethical investment policy.

    • DoublePlusGood 7.2

      So, Westpac’s, ANZ’s and BNZ’s entire boards and all senior management involved with their KiwiSaver funds to prison for 7 years and a $500,000 fine each then? I mean, it’s an open and shut case – they all publicly admitted the situation, and then continued to break the law when they knew they had broken the law.

      • Draco T Bastard 7.2.1

        Seems reasonable.

      • Leftie 7.2.2

        Yes, they, (& Superfund), have all knowingly broken the law. As pointed out in the post, it’s not as if there are no resources to weed out these companies before hand, because there are, and they are making money out of breaking the law.

      • Brutus Iscariot 7.2.3

        Except for the widely-used part of the Sentencing Act that allows sentences to be quashed if they are “manifestly unjust or out of proportion to the gravity of the offending”

        What no-one is actually acknowledging here, is that in none of the identified cases have there been decision makers at these funds in question, making a deliberate investment in cluster munitions. The share holdings are indirect and miniscule as a result of investment into passive index funds, where you just own a slice of all the investable companies listed on that particular stock market.

        Any prosecution would have enough holes to drive a truck through, especially when the precise nature of the involvement and definitions of “cluster munition manufacture” comes into play.

        I know it might give you a hard-on to think about rich pricks going to jail, but try to have some perspective.

        • DoublePlusGood 7.2.3.1

          I’m mostly posting in jest because I know full-well that no one will ever be held accountable for this, but to be quite honest, investment in cluster munitions manufacture is a serious matter resulting in significant loss of life from use of those munitions. This is why the fines and prison sentences allowed are large.
          While you are right that a prosecution is unlikely to succeed despite the publicly admitted breaking of the law, quite frankly, the punishments allowed *are* appropriate given the downstream loss of life.

          • Brutus Iscariot 7.2.3.1.1

            How far down the chain do you want to go though? By your logic any NZ citizen who has their funds in a non-complying Kiwisaver could also now be liable for prosecution – they are “investing” in cluster munitions, just through yet another layer and delegated. Just as the KS providers currently delegate to index providers and are being threatened with sanction.

  8. Henry Filth 8

    Well, given the number of Kiwisaver accounts with exposure to (say) the S&P500, the fines should pretty well clear the government’s deficit in pretty short order.

    As for the Prime Minister, well, as usual, he’s probably right, yes it is up to the individual. But, as usual, wrong in any meaningful relationship to reality for most New Zealanders. He really does have an awful track record on that.

    “Three in a row. Time to go”

  9. Macro 9

    The New Zealand Council for Socially Responsible Investment (now closed) actively campaigned for a number of years lobbying Govt on this issue.

    “CSRI has had a number of successes including encouraging the government to pull out of its investment in tobacco and landmines. It also demonstrated the inadequacy of the legislated criteria for suitable investment by NZ Government funds. It exposed the irony that its funds were actually investing in nuclear weapons, despite the fact that, for over three decades, the New Zealand Government had campaigned against the French and USA governments about their involvement with nuclear weaponry. The Accident Compensation Corporation in NZ has subsequently ceased such nuclear weapon investment although the New Zealand Superannuation Fund still persists in this practice.”

    Robert Howell worked for many years on this issue advising Governments both here and overseas. He is now resident in Australia where he continues to work on ethical investment issues.

  10. Gangnam Style 10

    Interesting contrast, ‘gangs are scum & make their money of illegal activities’ vs ‘bankers are scum & make their money off illegal activities’. Regarding the ‘P House clean up scam” there were commentators saying simple things like ‘well they shouldn’t break the law’, where are you on this BM? PR? Or it;s OK to break the law if you rich & powerful? Just the dumb poor have to keep absolutely squeaky clean? ‘If you want to do white time you got to do a white crime’ ?

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