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Exclusive: Five groups ousted from U.N.-backed responsible investment list

LONDON (Reuters) - Five investors have been removed from the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment, in the first such move by the group for those failing to meet its minimum requirements.

Signs for La Banque Postale, a French bank which is a subsidiary of the national postal service, La Poste, are seen outside a Post office in Paris, March 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mal Langsdon

The PRI has amassed more than 3,000 signatories managing in excess of $100 trillion in assets since it was launched in 2006 and membership is increasingly seen as crucial for asset managers pitching for mandates from pension schemes.

But the PRI, whose members were told in 2018 they had two years to reach a new set of minimum requirements, said on Monday four asset managers and one asset owner would be delisted.

BPE, the private banking arm of France’s La Banque Postale, is the largest, with assets the PRI put at around $5 billion.

Stichting Gemeenschappelijk Beleggingsfonds FNV (GFB) which is part of the biggest Dutch labour union, Indonesia’s Corfina Capital, U.S.-based Primary Wave IP Investment Management and French-based Delta Alternative Management, which reported assets of between $40 million to $310 million, were also removed, the PRI said.

BPE said in a statement that, for legal reasons, it had not been able to comply with one of the six fundamental principles of the PRI, regarding discretionary management, but was “currently working on resolving this legal constraint in order to once again adhere to (the) PRI.”

A spokeswoman for GFB was “very disappointed” by the PRI’s decision.

The GFB holds a small part of the overall capital of the FNV union and the costs of meeting the new requirements exceeded the benefits, the spokeswoman said, adding that the majority of FNV’s capital is managed separately and will still be listed.

A spokesman for Delta Alternative Management declined to comment. The two other firms did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

The delistings follow criticism in recent years that the PRI was not doing enough to ensure members lived up to the principles, including to embed environmental, social and governance-related issues in their investment decision-making.

“We had signatories who just weren’t doing enough, and were very much there for the marketing,” PRI Chief Executive Fiona Reynolds told Reuters. “They were sort of riding on the brand and riding on what other signatories were doing.”

This first round of exclusions may not satisfy all its critics given it affects mainly small firms, while some much larger signatories are being challenged for perceived inaction when engaging with companies on climate change.

‘WAKE UP CALL’

The new standards require members to have a responsible investment policy covering at least half of all managed assets, staff responsible for implementing it and senior-level oversight.

The PRI did not say which standard the delisted firms failed.

At the start of the process, 165 PRI members were warned they did not meet the new criteria, although most improved over the course of the two years.

“I think this was a bit of a wake-up call to some people ... ‘I can’t just sit here now; they’re actually upping the game and they’re taking this more seriously and I’d better get my act together’,” Reynolds said.

Of those firms originally warned, 23 chose to delist themselves for a variety of reasons, while four disputed the evidence that they had failed to meet the new requirements and successfully appealed, the PRI said, without naming them.

The PRI said it now plans to toughen membership requirements further and will launch a consultation at a meeting on Oct. 21.

Proposed changes include requiring firms’ responsible investment policies to cover 90% of assets and making that policy public. Engagement and voting would also be made mandatory for those managing equities.

Additional reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston, Lawrence Delevingne in New York, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam and Maya Nikolaeva in Paris; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Alexander Smith

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