09-28-2008, 08:02 PM
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CoE Pimping Marx While Playing Markets
Short-selling’ church leaders accused of failing to practise what they preach -Times Online
The Church of England was accused last night of having used short-selling to maximise profit on a £5 billion investment hours after its archbishops criticised banking practices.
After the call from the archbishops of Canterbury and York for tighter regulation of the markets, the liberal think-tank Ekklesia said that the Church was implicated in stock market speculation. It said that in 2006 the Church Commissioners, which manages the Church of England’s investments, set up a currency hedging programme against a fall in the value of sterling, effectively short-selling the pound to guard against rises in other currencies. It also criticised the Church for its shareholdings in oil and mining companies.
On Wednesday the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, branded the traders who cashed in on falling share prices in the troubled bank HBOS as “bank robbers” and “asset strippers”.
In an interview with The Times, he said that people had become enslaved to the god of money, and that leaving the market to regulate itself was like leaving a pack of hyenas in charge of a herd of cattle. He called for a judicial inquiry into the financial services industry. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, accepted that making a profit was a legitimate goal, “if not a morally supreme” one, but called in an article in The Spectator for more regulation of the financial world.
Jonathan Bartley, the co-director of Ekklesia, said: “The archbishops should be extremely careful when attacking City ‘bank robbers’ for short-selling and speculation. Amongst the billions of pounds that the Church currently invests in property and shares are hundreds of millions invested in oil and mining companies.
“The Church has benefited significantly from the speculation that has underpinned rising oil and commodity prices such as gold and copper. The Church has substantial shareholdings in banks and a stated aim of making an excess profit of 5 per cent each year, over and above the rate of inflation, on its investments.”
The Church Commissioners’ annual report last year revealed that its average return over the past decade was 9.5 per cent per year.
Mr Bartley continued: “By its own admission it has also hedged against a fall in the value of sterling, and set up a currency hedging programme in 2006, effectively short-selling sterling in the currency markets.”
He suggested that the Church should invest in institutions such as cooperatives, friendly societies and housing associations, and to work for the good of society, accepting a slightly lower profit. “The £5 billion investments that the Church currently holds provide a valuable opportunity for the Church to put its money where its mouth is, and use its wealth for good,” Mr Bartley said.
The Church denied last night that it indulged in any dubious practices and said that its investment decisions were informed by its Ethical Investment Advisory Group.
A spokesman said: “The commissioners do not short equities, nor have they delegated any shorting powers to their external equities fund managers. They do not have any exposure to hedge funds that short stocks.
“The currency hedging programme, set up in 2007, is designed to protect the sterling value of the commissioners’ foreign currency denominated assets. The commissioners invest in a wide range of equities, including those of mining, oil and financial companies, as part of a broadly diversified asset base.”
Evangelical leaders came out in support of the two archbishops as Dr Sentamu last night prepared to preach in New York and speak at the United Nations on the importance of the Millennium Development Goals, aimed at eradicating poverty.
The Rev Joel Edwards, of Micah Challenge International, a global Christian campaign that works to challenge international leaders to achieve its goals, said: “Archbishop Sentamu’s challenge goes to the heart of the issue. The current financial crisis has demonstrated not only the degree of our self-interest and human greed in the West, but also our abject reluctance to rise to the challenges of taking our promises seriously.”
David Muir, public policy director at the Evangelical Alliance, said: “We live to consume and now our greed is consuming us. We are reaping the consequences of always wanting more.”