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ECONOMY

Investor coalition calls out banks financing Dakota Access Pipeline

(updated with correction)

A coalition of more than 130 investors representing more than $685 billion in assets are calling on global banks financing the Dakota Access Pipeline to “address or support” the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s request to reroute the pipeline away from the tribe’s territory.

“Banks may be implicated in conflict and controversies related to the pipeline and could face long-term brand and reputational damage resulting from consumer boycotts and possible legal liability,” Boston Common Asset Management, the group’s organizer, said in a news release. “As investors and fiduciaries, we urge them to address or support the tribe's call for rerouting the pipeline and achieve a resolution satisfactory to all parties, including the tribe. As it stands, the projected route for the pipeline threatens the tribe's water supply and sacred sites.”

Along with Boston Common Asset Management, other members of the coalition include the $308 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Sacramento; New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, who oversees the $170.6 billion New York City Retirement Systems; Storebrand Asset Management and Calvert Research and Management.

The banks identified in the news release are Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Bayerische Landesbank, BancoBilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole, DNB, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, ING, Intesa Sanpaolo, Mizuho Bank, Natixis, Societe Generale, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, SunTrust Bank and Toronto-Dominion Bank.

Rebecca Adamson, president and founder of First Peoples Worldwide, said: “The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline has implications beyond the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. It is a fight for everyone who wants clean air, clean drinking water, and a voice in what happens in their backyard. As governments increasingly prove incapable or unwilling to protect these things, citizens are turning to the market and the market is responding.”

Anne Simpson, investment director, sustainability, at CalPERS, said in the news release: "It's important that we join with our fellow investors to ensure that the banks we own exercise proper oversight in their lending. Attention and respect for community concerns and environmental risks are fundamental to sound business practice. Financing a project does not mean these responsibilities can be checked at the door. We're looking for a positive response from the banks. They hold the purse strings."

CalPERS had roughly $6.5 billion invested in 16 of the 17 banks as a shareholder and creditor as of Dec. 31. Regarding whether the pension fund would be divesting any of those holdings, a CalPERS spokeswoman said: “We are actively engaging with the banks. As stated in our global governance principles, we value engagement over divestment.”

Boston Common noted in its news release that consumers have already closed accounts totaling more than $66 million with banks financing the pipeline and are threatening to pull another $2.3 billion, and that Seattle’s City Council voted earlier this month to end its banking relationship with Wells Fargo over the bank’s role in helping finance the pipeline.

Spokesmen for Boston Common and Wells Fargo could not immediately be reached for comment. A Citigroup spokeswoman could not immediately provide a comment.