Perth and Kinross Council asked to consider stance on tobacco investments – Perth & Kinross / Local / News / The Courier

Tayside Pension Fundhas been consulting with its member employers about tobacco divestment.

Perth and Kinross Council asked to consider stance on tobacco investments – Perth & Kinross / Local / News / The Courier.

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Suffolk: Tobacco investment ban takes big step forward – Politics – East Anglian Daily Times

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Councils paid to cut smoking, but have £2bn of tobacco shares – UK Politics – UK – The Independent

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Value of county council’s tobacco shares increase despite a review of the investment plan – News – Ipswich Star

Some controversy at Suffolk County Council as fund managers increase tobacco holdings in business as usual move, while council consults on tobacco divestment. Will Suffolk follow Greater Manchester and divest?

Value of county council’s tobacco shares increase despite a review of the investment plan – News – Ipswich Star.

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Scottish QC gives opinion that LAs can divest from tobacco

Earlier this year the Local Government Association obtained a legal opinion from Nigel Giffin QC which has been widely publicised and is available on the LGPS website.  That opinion has been interpreted in different ways, but the consensus seems to be that in practice it has given very little more leeway to local authority pension committees to divest from tobacco stocks.  The Law Commission has also referred to that opinion in its recent report on fiduciary duties.

However, I have recently discovered that another QCs opinion was obtained in Scotland last year from a QC named O’Neill.  A copy of this is attached also.  This QC is quite clear that local authorities can divest from tobacco stocks.  In his observations he notes that much of the Trust case law is now quite old (20-30 years), that in any event more recent statute law is what governs the LGPS, and that the public policy environment around tobacco has changed substantially in recent decades.  He doesn’t mention the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as a material factor, which I believe would have strengthened his opinion, but nevertheless the acknowledgement that public policy is a material factor, to be considered alongside others such as financial returns, is an important development.

The attachment contains both legal opinions, but please note that the pdf file has 6 blank pages at the beginning.  Scroll down to page 7 please to read in full.  Does anyone have any observations to make on the relative merits of these observations?  In particular, given the public health role of local authorities in England and their investments in smoking cessation and tobacco control, should LAs be able to use similar grounds as charities in excluding tobacco stocks from their pension fund investments?

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Suffolk: Council votes to disinvest pension funds from tobacco companies – Politics – OLD – East Anglian Daily Times

Suffolk: Council votes to disinvest pension funds from tobacco companies – Politics – OLD – East Anglian Daily Times.

This looks like it might be the first local government pension fund to publicly divest from tobacco shares held directly by the fund,as opposed to those only operating pooled funds.  The Council has given a strong lead to the pension committee, and the quotes suggest that committee is likely to agree to divest.  It is not a foregone conclusion, but if it happens this will be a highly significant development.

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Chain smoker’s widow awarded $23bn in punitive damages in Florida | Business | theguardian.com

Chain smoker’s widow awarded $23bn in punitive damages in Florida | Business | theguardian.com.

While it seems likely the punitive damages awarded in this case will be successfully appealed, it remains to be seen what level of damages will remain once the appeals processes are completed.  The jury evidently found that the company knew what it was doing.  According to one of the lawyers involved the infamous footage of 7 Chief Executive Officers lying to Congress about the addictive effects of nicotine had a big impact on the jury.

See the footage here.

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