Saturday, December 22, 2012

Chevron and the Activist


Chevron was recently involved in a lawsuit in Ecuador. An excellent blog explains many of the details of the suit. Chevron lost and the court in Ecuador awarded the plaintiffs $18 billion USD.  There environmental claims and strange goings on in a far away court. What interests me is the involvement of a Shareholder Activist, Trillium Asset Management. This investor has great interest in encouraging Chevron to care more about sustainable issues like the environment. Chevron recently subpoenaed Trillium for another suit in the US involving a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) claim.

Chevron seems to want information from the shareholder Trillium involving its actions to pressure Chevron to  settle the claim in Ecuador rather than going to trial. This seems straight forward enough.

What I find interesting is the tone of both the blog (see link above) and a December 9th New York Times article describing the activities of Chevron as muscling Trillium rather than seeking truth and Trillium seeking only the best for shareholders. Trillium has $1 billion under management. These are big boys playing big boy games all around.    

The tone of most of what I have read is that Chevron is guilty and Trillium, because it is seeking matters of sustainability, is lacks guile. How can one know the truth? I just think at least the media should reserve judgment. once the sustainable investor gets as large as Trillium, it is ok to suspect everyone of having an agenda.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Newtown: Raising a child with disabilities in the US vs. Gun control



We are all grieving over the tragic shooting in Connecticut.
So many lives lost and so many survivors and parents who will never live life as they had before.

The media and social media quickly resorted to demanding more gun control which may be necessary. I really cannot say. It would take more time than I have to form an opinion informed enough to say what legislation we do have and what MORE gun control will achieve. It is not so obvious to me that abolishing gun ownership would save every life ended by a gun. It is just not that simple.

Even if legislation was passed, just like gay marriage, the courts would become involved because opponents of the legislation would activate suits. This article in the Atlantic is an interesting discussion of recent US Supreme Court decisions regarding attempts at gun control and the Courts understanding of the 2nd amendment's right to bear arms. My concern is that the one of the lessons to be learned from the Newton shooting has been lost and will continue to be lost in the legal and political wranglings we are seeing play out right now in the US. That lesson concerns a family grappling with a disabled child's struggles and the stress that puts on the fragile ties that currently bind American marriages.

The New York Time's has an excellent Op-Ed piece asking us not to blame Autism for Newtown. I concur. When reading the Newtown news reports I felt us all sliding back in time to a day when Autism was caused by uncaring mothers. The media has focused on the Mother's gun ownership and the son's aloofness and it seems that there is so much more we can focus on to help prevent this kind of tragedy in the future. I believe we need to focus on helping families get the help they need to remain together when they are raising a child with disabilities.

As a society, among all the other things we need to worry about, we must see that this specific kind of family fracture is happening everywhere all of the time. Our schools can only do so much. While so many of us are DEMANDING gun control, which will cost money to pass and enforce, let us also consider the soft, non-legal and political response. How do we help these families survive and raise kids with disabilities and not lose themselves to burnout in the process? Why not consider that impossibly big problem and try to solve that as well?

I want us to think outside the box and with our hearts. I doubt any legislation is going to solve the myriad of problems that led to this result. I wish we could go back "13 seconds" like the Omega 13 device from the movie Galaxy Quest. Going back and removing access to guns is not enough of a solution for me. I wish we could go back and at least know that there was not more we could have done as a society to support ALL  parents with children who demand more.

This is not one more entitlement. This is asking of States and Cities, churches and non-profits to begin to think what role they have in not preventing a recurrence of this tragedy. How have we all let these families down??  Pass gun control if that will help but it is just a band-aid. Lets try and be brutally honest about the limitations of the law and conceive of real solutions that will actually help people deal with what they face in life. Maybe it is not more than simply educating families and pointing them to where support is available. Let's start talking about THIS alongside other solutions that are so very politically laden.    

Monday, December 17, 2012

Post-Cairo ASEA 2012 thoughts



The African Stock Exchange Association (ASEA) conference in Cairo was more intimate in many ways because of the threat of violence in Cairo. The Egyptian Stock Exchange (EGX) did an amazing job organizing and running the show. Many of the presenters were Egyptian and spoke passionately about what was happening literally a few blocks away at Tahrir Square. It really was pretty amazing to be there and engage in discussions about what was happening  and try to understand the various perspectives. Newspapers were delivered twice a day directly to our tables which was impressive. (If only individuals in Orange County California read that much things might improve here.) In addition to the politics outside in Cairo, there was the usual politics of African Stock Exchanges inside.

We heard presentations from the African Development Bank and the World Federation of Exchanges. Many speakers failed to show at the conference so Exchange Officials stepped in to fill in spots. This actually worked out well and contributed to the intimate feel of the discussions.

There was still plenty of discussion of a pan-African Exchange and the concept that economies of scale would address liquidity issues. This only seemed to underscore more the very real sense that an Exchange has a national identity. Any economies of scale must allow that identity to remain. Creative order-routing and cross-listing were mentioned and currently do and can address liquidity issues on the continent.

Another interesting inclusion at the conference was Asian exchanges. This was an excellent idea by conference organizers. The panel touched on common interests and goals and served to begin a dialogue which is how a journey of a 1000 miles is accomplished. See below:  

Panel 7: Exploring Cooperation Opportunities among African and Asian Exchanges

Panel Moderator: Geoff Rothschild, Head of Government & International Affairs, Johannesburg Stock Exchange JSE 
Panelists:
1. Oscar N. Onyema, CEO, Nigeria Stock Exchange 
2. Mustafa Baltac─▒, Secretary General of Federation of Euro Asian Exchanges (FEAS) & Vice Chairman of Istanbul Menkul Kiymetler Borsasi (IMKB) 
3. Aftab Ahmad Ch, Managing Director & CEO Lahore Stock Exchange (LSE) & Secretary General of the South Asian Federation of Exchanges (SAFE) 

I was very excited to connect with a lawyer working at the Nepal Stock Exchange and have already begun to think of papers to pursue with her. 

My main take-away was that the venue was a perfect back-drop to what proved to be a valuable conference and a great opportunity to meet and hear from knowledgeable experts who regulate, run and advise exchanges in Africa.    

Conferences are what they are in some respect and you make of them what you can. I found this one valuable for the discussion and the professionals that I met.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

CAIRO !!


I finally arrived in Cairo. I am staying where the conference is, at the Four Seasons....yes, very fortunate.
Gorgeous location and Cairo is such an amazing mix of architecture, I recognize things form other parts of Africa, then suddenly I feel as if I am in Paris. I anxiously await the sun so I can really take this city in.

Why am I so irritated when I fly with Europeans...and South Africans for that matter? Sorry, but that is the truth. I think it must be me. I believe there is actually a way to fly all squished together in a polite way.  African airlines, Kenya Air, Egypt Air, people are squished but polite-people help with luggage and let you go first. they say please and thank you.

On the other hand, the minute I am on a big international flight from Europe or the US for that matter...there is shoving and arguing, elbowing and rudeness. This is my observation. I dunno, maybe it was just Lufthansa.

In any case, it does look as if the reason I have come all this way has disappeared. The Agenda is now missing many of the speakers on Capital Markets regulation are not coming. That is ok since the World Federation of Exchange is here and I really want to hear that discussion.