From daily The Guardian in Britain:
Charity says it will sell controversial holdings highlighted in Panorama investigation while it conducts two-month inquiry
Thursday 26 December 2013 15.00 GMT
The Red Nose Day and Sport Relief charity was criticised following an investigation by the BBC’s Panorama programme that found it has shares in schemes that critics claim contradict the core aims of the charity.
Comic Relief has now moved to sell the holdings it has in funds related to tobacco, arms and alcohol – worth millions of pounds – while it conducts an independent review.
“Until the review has been concluded, the Trustees have decided to withdraw Comic Relief funds from the sections of the investment portfolio which have caused concern, and this process is underway,” the charity said in a statement.
Comic Relief, which was criticised by some of its own high-profile supporters, including the comics Frankie Boyle and Al Murray, said that it had commissioned an “urgent review” of its investment strategy.
“The review will recommend changes to Comic Relief’s investment policy that will reinforce and ensure continued public trust in the charity, be consistent with its charitable aims and are in line with charity regulation and law,” the charity said.
Comic Relief has revealed details of the review process with the aim to publish the findings and recommendations “within eight weeks”.
The review will be conducted by a panel of five led by an “independent chair” which will “recommend the principles and framework for a new investment policy and its levels of transparency”.
Comic Relief’s vice chair, Richard Curtis, and chief executive, Kevin Cahill, will attend meetings, while the chief operating officer, Derek Gannon, will act as secretary.
“As a charity which depends on public trust, it’s absolutely right that we take this opportunity to examine our investment policy thoroughly in view of the concerns which have been raised,” said Tim Davie, the chairman of Comic Relief and chief executive of BBC Worldwide.
The charity initially defended its strategy with Peter Bennett-Jones, the co-founder of Comic Relief who stepped down as chair of trustees earlier this year, insisting that investments were made on legal guidelines which state they must yield the best possible financial return.
However, after mounting criticism Cahill admitted earlier this month that the charity would look to start a review and that its investments in companies in controversial sectors were “a small percentage, no more than 5% of our funds in any of those particular areas”.
“Comic Relief is committed to finding a solution that allows it to continue to deliver the greatest benefit to the poor and vulnerable people it supports,” the charity said.
The lobbying firm run by David Cameron’s election guru, Lynton Crosby, is under fire for seeking to obtain internal government opinions about tobacco policy: here.
- Comic Relief money invested in weapons, tobacco and alcohol (metro.co.uk)
- Comic Relief invested in arms trade (bbc.co.uk)
- Comic Relief to review investments (bbc.co.uk)
- No laughing matter: Comic Relief invested in tobacco, alcohol and arms firms (independent.co.uk)
- Comic Relief to review investments after row over BBC Panorama report (theguardian.com)
- British charities entangled with weapons, tobacco corporations (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Comic Relief under fire ahead of BBC Panorama investigation (theguardian.com)