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July 15, 2008

How You Can Help Atria Residents and Workers

-- by Dave Johnson

Last week in Gouging Vulnerable Seniors -- What Can Be Done? I wrote about two big pension funds that have invested in the "Lazard affiliate" that owns Atria Senior Living, and suggested they ask Lazard to clear up their act. (If you are not familiar with what is happening with Atria, please click this.) One of these funds is in Quebec, the other in the Netherlands. These funds have signed on to the United Nation's Principles for Responsible Investment (UN-PRI) and these principles call for investors to take action when their investments are causing harm.

PGGM is a large pension fund in the Netherlands that serves that country's public social workers and health care workers.

La Caisse de Depot et Placements du Quebec ("CDP") -- a large public pension fund in Quebec.

These are prominent, large funds with good reputations on a global stage. They are responsible investors and take it seriously enough to be signatories to the UN-PRI. The Principles' FAQs say "The Principles suggest a policy of engagement with companies rather than screening or avoiding stocks based on ESG criteria (although this may be an appropriate approach for some investors)." I am writing here to encourage PGGM and CDP to ask Lazard to clean up their act, and have Atria treat their elderly residents and their workers better. Ask them to support the International Labor Organization's core conventions, especially Freedom of Association: "The right of workers and employers to form and join organizations of their choice is an integral part of a free and open society. It is a basic civil liberty that serves as a building block for social and economic progress. Linked to this is the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining. Voice and representation are an important part of decent work."

So OK, that's what THEY can do. What about you?

Do you have a pension fund? Maybe you have friends or relatives with pension funds? There are steps you can take.

YOU will retire some day. You will get old. So you should take this personally. Do you want to have a national corporate environment that means you will retire into a place like this? Or do you want to fight the system that accepts this kind of thing? Because it can happen to YOU.

Here is a partial list of the investors in the Lazard-Atria fund:

Public employee pension funds in the U.S.:
Virginia state pension fund
Wisconsin state pension fund
Colorado state pension fund
Utah state pension fund
New York state pension fund
IIlinois state pension fund
Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund

European / Canadian public funds:
La Caisse de Depot (Quebec fund)
PGGM (Netherlands public / healthcare workers fund)

Corporate funds:
General Motors Asset Management
Lucent Asset Management
AT&T Investment Management
IBM

Other investors:
Lazard Group
Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC)
Institutional Property Consultants
Southern Company

If you have money in one of these, this is not just some union dispute -- it is your money.

Are these funds doing their job on holding Lazard responsible? Are they responsible with their other investments? What about other places where you have money?

There is a way for them to start being responsible, and that is to join the UN-PRI commitment to responsible investing, and start fighting to create an economy that cares about people.

This isn't just about Atria and Lazard. This is about a national climate where people are human beings who are respected, not just economic units to be squeezed. You have the power to make noise and demand that people be treated with respect.


This post was sponsored in part by The Campaign To Improve Assisted Living.

Posted by Dave Johnson at July 15, 2008 9:44 AM

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