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Australia Securities Commission Fines Morningstar $20,000 for Exposure to Controversial Weapons Investments Despite ESG Policy, Direct Exposure to Honeywell, General Dynamics, Leidos, Northrop Grumman & Raytheon Technologies

27th December 2023 | Hong Kong

The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) has fined Morningstar $20,000 (AUD 29,820) for exposure to controversial weapons investments despite ESG policy (Environmental, Social & Corporate Governance) of not investing into controversial weapons, with Morningstar having direct exposure to securities in Honeywell, General Dynamics, Leidos, Northrop Grumman & Raytheon Technologies.  Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC): “Morningstar has paid $29,820 to comply with two infringement notices issued by ASIC in which ASIC alleged its investor funds were exposed to controversial weapons investments, despite Morningstar’s Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) Policy stating that such investments would be excluded.  The Product Disclosure Statement for the Morningstar International Shares (Unhedged) Fund stated that it would exclude certain securities or sectors based on environmental, social or governance factors, as listed in the ESG Policy. The ESG Policy said the Fund would not have exposure to investments in controversial weapons companies.”  More info below:

“ Australia Securities Commission Fines Morningstar $20,000 for Exposure to Controversial Weapons Investments Despite ESG Policy, Direct Exposure to Honeywell, General Dynamics, Leidos, Northrop Grumman & Raytheon Technologies “

 



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Australia Securities Commission Fines Morningstar $20,000 for Exposure to Controversial Weapons Investments Despite ESG Policy

Sydney Australia

1st December 2023 – Morningstar has paid $29,820 to comply with two infringement notices issued by ASIC in which ASIC alleged its investor funds were exposed to controversial weapons investments, despite Morningstar’s Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) Policy stating that such investments would be excluded.

The Product Disclosure Statement for the Morningstar International Shares (Unhedged) Fund stated that it would exclude certain securities or sectors based on environmental, social or governance factors, as listed in the ESG Policy. The ESG Policy said the Fund would not have exposure to investments in controversial weapons companies.  The Fund was directly exposed for short periods of time to securities in the following weapons companies:

  • Honeywell International Inc;
  • General Dynamics Corp;
  • Leidos Holdings Inc;
  • Northrop Grumman Corp;
  • Raytheon Technologies Corp.

Morningstar’s ESG research arm, Sustainalytics, identifies that the above companies are involved in controversial weapons, specifically the development or production of nuclear weapons or providing core components for them.

The Fund was exposed to Honeywell International from 2 November to 18 November 2022, being the date the shareholding was divested after Morningstar had become aware of it. On a subsequent occasion, the Fund was exposed to General Dynamics, Leidos Holdings, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon Technologies securities from 31 May 2023 to 13 June 2023.

Morningstar reported the incidents to ASIC.  Morningstar paid the infringement notices on 30 November 2023. Payment of an infringement notice is not an admission of guilt or liability.  The specific reasons for ASIC’s concerns are set out in the two infringement notices which have been published on the Credit and ASIC Act infringements notices register.

Background

  • ASIC has issued infringement notices in response to concerns about alleged greenwashing against Tlou Energy Limited (22-294MR), Vanguard Investments Australia (22-336MR) and Diversa Trustees Limited (22-379MR).
  • ASIC currently has three greenwashing-related cases before the Federal Court, including against Mercer Super (23-043MR), Vanguard Investments Australia (23-196MR) and Active Super (23-215MR).
  • ASIC’s Information Sheet 271 (INFO 271) provides information for responsible entities of managed funds and super fund trustees about how to avoid greenwashing when offering or promoting sustainability-related or ethical products and investments.



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