November 14, 2014

Demanding transparency of big pharma clinical trials

BNP Paribas Investment Partners, the Paris-based fund manager, is lobbying the pharma sector in support of the AllTrials campaign, which was started by U.K.-based Sense About Science, a charitable trust. The campaign is pushing for much greater transparency around clinical trials, a necessary and crucial step in the process of drug development. Unfortunately, around half of clinical trial results have never been published. Perhaps not a surprise, trials with negative results are twice as likely to remain unreported as those with positive results. At the same time, industry funded trials that have been published are much more likely than independently funded trials to show positive results. Helena Viñes Fiestas, who heads sustainability research at BNP, said some companies have faced enormous fines by not disclosing clinical trial data. As recently as 2013, several pharmaceutical firms paid over $10 billion in fines for not fully articulating secondary effects they were aware of. Companies have also been criticized for wasting significant amounts of money conducting unnecessary trials when such funds could be better directed towards research and development and trials that have greater potential.


Ottawa moves to protect Canada’s “brand” abroad

Canada is introducing a new social responsibility policy aimed at protecting the country’s positive “brand” in overseas markets, and mining and energy companies that don’t toe the line could find themselves cut off from government support. That includes financing and other supportive services from agencies such as Export Development Canada, not to mention the many Canadian embassies around the world that help companies gain a foothold in foreign markets. The news was reported in Friday’s Globe and Mail, which said that International Trade Minister Ed Fast is also appointing a new corporate social responsibility counselor with added powers to assure policy compliance. In addition, the federal government is requiring that resource companies comply with new transparency standards, by reporting, for example, payments made to foreign governments.


Viking women failing to crack glass ceiling

Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland are hailed as being more civilized societies because of the equal opportunity provided to women. As The Economist points out, the state provides world-leading coverage for childcare and maternity leave, and more women graduate from Nordic universities than men. Take a tour of their respective parliaments and women are equals or dominate the chambers, and mandatory quotas on corporate boards assure women are well represented. In the C-suite, however, and even among senior managers, women aren’t faring so well. As the magazine points out, Denmark, for one, was ranked 72nd by the World Economic Forum when it came to the gender gap in upper management of publicly traded firms.


Barclays, MSCI launch green bond index family

Barclays and MSCI have come out with a new green bond index family that measures the global market of fixed income securities issued to fund projects and initiatives that have direct environmental benefits. Securities must pass an independent and objective assessment by MSCI ESG Research to be included in the index family. The assessment looks at how proceeds of the bond issue will be used, whether projects meet criteria, how funds will be managed, and how results will be reported. Additional fixed income index criteria are then applied to this screened universe to identify index membership on a monthly basis. “The availability of market standard indices is important in establishing clear, broadly accepted guidelines for the new issuers rapidly entering the market,” said Sean Kidney of the Climate Bonds Initiative. “The stature of Barclays and MSCI will help to bring attention to green bonds.”


NYC comptroller Scott Stringer leads board accountability project

The man who has auditing power over New York’s $75 billion annual budget and oversees the city’s five municipal pension funds – which together represent $160 billion in assets – is leading an initiative that aims to bring better corporate governance practices to the boardrooms of big U.S. corporations. Specifically, Stringer wants to leverage the huge shareholder clout that the country’s public pension funds have to push through long-needed governance changes. Corporate Knights’ managing editor Jeremy Runnalls chatted with Stringer about the Boardroom Accountability Project, which was launched last week with a coalition of large public pension plans. Its goal: pressure companies to let shareholders that control at least 3 per cent of company shares to nominate their own board candidates. “The fact is that friends of friends are still placed on boards and then often make decisions that are not in the long-term interests of shareowners,” Stringer told Runnalls. “I think this project promises to transform the dynamic between shareowners and corporate boards by giving investors real power to nominate corporate directors.

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