US asset managers and pension funds target opioid-related firms

Investors for Opioid Accountability (IOA), a US coalition which includes asset managers, faith-based, public and trades union pension funds with over $1.3 trillion in assets have filed multiple shareholder resolutions on board oversight of business risks related to opioids at 10 opioid distributor and manufacturer companies. This comes after mounting criticism of the businesses which have been blamed for fuelling an epidemic of addiction in the US.

Membership of IOA includes faith-based investors such as Trinity Health, Sisters of Saint Francis and United Church Funds, trades union pension funds such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and CTW Investment Services and public sector funds such as the School Employees Retirement System of Ohio and the New York City Pension Funds. The targetted companies include not only opioid distributers McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, but also opioid manufacturers Depomed, Endo, Insys, Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt, Mylan and Pernix.  IOA is led by the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust and Mercy Investment Services.

 Meredith Miller, Chief Corporate Governance Officer for the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust said: “The Investors for Opioid Accountability came together out of escalating concerns that opioid company business risks can both threaten shareholder value and have profound long-term implications for the economy and society. With 91 opioid-related deaths a day in the U.S. and studies showing the potential impact on workforce productivity and labour force participation, we have to pay attention to opioid business risks.”
US opioid

US investors target opioid makers and distributors

Opioid manufacturers and distributors have come under heightened legal and legislative scrutiny over whether they failed to adequately disclose the addictive potential of opioids or failed to report suspicious spikes in the sale or distribution of opioids to drug enforcement authorities as mandated by federal law, according to the IOA.

The resolutions put forward by the coalition requests the independent directors of the boards of the 10 companies to investigate how they are responding to increasing business risks related to opioids. Additionally, the IOA believes that the companies need to improve their general corporate governance structures, which it believes would also enhance their risk management procedures. Therefore the investors are pushing companies to strengthen independent board leadership and introduce pay policies that would deter misconduct.

This approach builds and expands on a shareholder campaign for accountability that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Treasurers of IllinoisPennsylvaniaWest Virginia and California initiated earlier this year at opioid distributors. In response to this initiative, the IOA said McKesson has launched an investigation, led by independent board members, of its opioid-related business practices; committed to separate the roles of chief executive officer (CEO) and board chairman when the current CEO retires; and (3) pledged to review its pay practices after 73% of investors rejected its pay package in 2017.

At Cardinal Health’s forthcoming AGM (8th November) the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has put forward a resolution urging the company to appoint an independent chairman in future.

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