October 21, 2014

Deadly crash

Christophe de Margerie, Chairman and CEO of French oil giant Total S.A., was killed in a tragic accident late Monday night. His private jet struck a snow plow as it attempted to take off from Moscow’s Vnukovo airport. “The thoughts of the management and employees of the Group go out to Christophe de Margerie’s wife, children and loved ones as well as to the families of the three other victims,” the company said in a statement. Early reports from the Russian Investigative Committee indicate that the driver of the snowplow may have been intoxicated.


Carbon efficiency investment strategy

A new low-carbon fund developed by Mellon Capital Management, the index fund arm of BNY Mellon, announced yesterday that it has secured its first investor. The Minneapolis-based McKnight Foundation has agreed to place $100 million into Mellon’s new Carbon Efficiency Strategy. “Using data about greenhouse gas emissions, this new product overweighs carbon-efficient companies, while underweighting companies slower to embrace our new energy reality,” explained the McKnight Foundation in a blog post. Mellon Capital Management designed the product with the help of Mercer, a consultant firm, and Imprint Capital, an impact firm.


Dark money

The landmark 2010 Citizens United ruling by the U.S Supreme Court, which largely gutted campaign finance laws for corporations and unions alike, has helped to channel a flood of “dark money” into political races across the country. Financial information inadvertently released by a federal court in August has revealed one such instance of influence-peddling in Wisconsin. A recent investigation by ProPublica demonstrated how coal magnate Chris Cline funneled millions of dollars through non-profits in a successful attempt to weaken Wisconsin mining regulation. Cline’s subsidiary, Gogebic Taconite, proposed an iron-ore mine in Northern Wisconsin in 2008, and stood to benefit from the streamlined legislation. After helping to write the bill, it launched a carefully coordinated campaign through several different non-profits that touted the bill’s benefits and targeted vulnerable legislators that did not support the legislation. Wisconsin voters remained in the dark about the true source of funding.


Organic competition

Faced with growing competition in the ethical and organic food market and declining sales figures, supermarket chain Whole Foods has begun to roll out a national advertising campaign across the United States. An initial ad buy worth $15-20 million is expected at first. The advertisements will emphasize the company’s values-oriented approach for food sourcing with taglines, such as “the highest standards weren’t available, so we created them.” Despite slowing sales growth at existing stores, Whole Foods is planning to open 38 new stores across the country this year.


Balmy forecast

Today in counter-intuitive thinking, Wharton Business School professor Robert Meyer makes the case for delaying climate change mitigation in Miami. Developers and residents alike have ignored study after study warning of rapid sea-level rise along the Florida coastand have continued to push ahead with long-term investments in the area. “South Florida is potentially facing a huge adaptation bill down the road, and paying for it will require a healthy tax base,” he writes. “Keeping that tax base flush depends on a cooperative equilibrium where buyers and sellers maintain an optimistic view that it’s tomorrow’s problem, one that will be easily tackled when the time comes.” At least that won’t be such a stretch for Florida’s climate-denying governor Rick Scott.

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