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Private equity teeters the line between social and corporate responsibility

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December 7
3:45 AM 2013

Private equity giant Cerberus Capital Management LP is a target of a non-profit coalition recently. In an article on the International Business Times, Campaign to Unload led a campaign to urge the New York-based firm to fulfill the promise the latter made in December 2012 to exit from its investment in weapons manufacturer Freedom Group Inc. The Freedom Group Inc was the manufacture of the Bushmaster rifle that was used in a shooting spree in the a Newtown, Conneticut school, leaving 26 dead including 20 children. Campaign to Unload is an organization that had been critical of investments made in weapon manufacturers, especially gunmakers.

Campaign executive director Jennifer Fiore disclosed to IBTimes, "A number of investors, including [state pension fund] CalSTRS, have been investigating its investments with Cerberus since this Newtown episode," Fiore said. "They'd love to see Cerberus take the high road and be a leader, and sell its investments in gun manufacturers. We consider it blood money."

Cerberus had not provided any comment regarding the IBTimes article, but released a statement earlier, which read, "As a Firm, we are investors, not statesmen or policymakers. Our role is to make investments on behalf of our clients... It is not our role to take positions."

IBTimes pointed out in its article that despite an intriguing trend towards consideration of environmental, social and corporate governance (or ESG) factors in private equity firms has been seen rising, the reason for doing so is obviously due to pressure from large investors. Private equity strategist and ESG expert Andrew Malk told IBTimes, "We want good risk-adjusted returns from our private equity allocation, but we want that return with as little environmentally and socially negative impact as possible.

United Nations' Principles for Responsible Investment former chief James Gifford made the explantion more plain and said, "Post-crisis, capital dried up and things completely reversed. Private equity funds realized they really needed to respond to what clients were demanding."

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