Finance and Investment – Danwatch undersøgende journalistik Fri, 18 Jan 2019 13:18:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Finance and Investment – Danwatch 32 32 Pension Fund blacklists four companies after Danwatch investigation Tue, 10 Oct 2017 11:18:22 +0000 The third largest pension fund in Denmark, Sampension, excludes four publicly traded companies from their portfolio. The blacklisting happens after Danwatch in January this year, in the investigation Business on Occupied Territory, documented that Sampension is the Danish pension fund that has invested the largest sum of money in companies doing business in or around the illegal Israeli settlements. The Danwatch-investigation has lead the pension fund to revise its investment guidelines, the fund stated in a press release dated 2. October (Links to Press Release in Danish).

All of the four companies are excluded for violating Sampension’s new guidelines for investments in occupied territories.

”Based on our new policy we have reviewed whether or not there are companies in our portfolio which are listed in Vigeo Eiris’ BIOL-database (Business in Occupied Lands)”, explains director of investments in Sampension, Henrik Olejasz Larsen, in the press release.

“The result of our review is that two Israeli banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, as well as Heidelberg Cement and Bezeq, has been placed on our list of excluded companies due to the financing of settlements, and the extraction of natural resources and establishment of infrastructure for telecommunication on occupied territory”, the press release states.   

Six more companies are being examined

Last week the organisation Human Rights Watch documented that Israeli banks are violating the human rights of palestinians, as well as international law, through their financing of new infrastructure projects that cement the occupation of Palestinian territory.

Investments in the occupied territories are problematic also because Danish investors are undermining both Denmark’s and the EU’s official policy of supporting a two-state solution as a solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Sampension had invested a total of 400 million Danish kroner in Israeli and international companies with activities in settlements on the West Bank when Danwatch investigated the investments in January this year.

Then, Sampension stated that they had no specific investment policy for the occupied territories, but that all of their investments must respect human rights, no matter where the companies are doing business.

Today Sampension informs that they, apart from the four blacklisted companies, are also initiating a dialogue with an additional six companies about their possible business activities in the settlements.

See the full list of companies excluded by Sampension here.

Stays on occupied land

Sampension’s policy change does not lead to any immediate policy changes with other Danish pension funds who hold similar investments.

In a survey Danwatch has asked seven investment funds, who all held investments in banks operating on the West Bank when Danwatch investigated the matter in January 2017, if they plan to exclude or in other ways take action against the companies.  

Only three of the funds have replied to the survey – none of which have ended their investments in banks doing business on occupied land.

Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, confirms that they still hold investments in the two banks excluded by Sampension, Hapoalim and Leumi. In their latest investment portfolio made available to the public Danske Bank held 560.000 Danish kroner in Bank Hapoalim, and 930.000 Danish kroner in Bank Leumi.

They do not intend to keep an extra eye on the Israeli banks operating on the West Bank.

“We do not have a specific investment policy towards Israeli companies, but all companies we invest in have to comply with our internal guidelines for responsible investments, Robert Bruun Mikkelstrup, assistant director for Investment Risk and Implementation in Dansk Bank, says in an e-mail.

Neither Nordea has ended their investments in the banks, but they have initiated a dialogue.

“We have been in dialogue with the relevant banks about their investments in occupied territories, and we will include aspects of Human Rights Watch’ framework in our future dialogue with the banks. Depending on the results of this dialogue, we will consider our future investments”, states both Nordea Liv & Pension and Nordea Invest.  

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Europe’s Largest Pension Funds Heavily Invested in Illegal Israeli Settlements Tue, 31 Jan 2017 08:18:55 +0000 European investors have billions of euro invested in companies with activities in and around illegal Israeli settlements, according to a new investigation from Danwatch that screened the investment portfolios of Europe’s top five pension fund managers.

Statens pensjonsfond utland (Oljefondet) (NO), Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP (NE), Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (NE), Arbejdsmarkedets Tillægspension (DK), and Alecta Pensionsförsäkring (SE) have a total of €7.5 billion invested in 36 Israeli and international publicly-traded companies, most of which have long been under public scrutiny because of their activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.Not a valid elementor pageHugh Lovatt, expert on Israel and Palestine at the respected think-tank European Council on Foreign Relations, explains the problem with settlements:“Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are illegal and have led to the dispossession of Palestinians and the fragmentation of Palestinian land. They infringe on Palestinian rights and exploit Palestinian natural resources.”Business activities in and around settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are not necessarily against the law, but according to the United Nations, investors are obliged to carry out enhanced due diligence and to demonstrate that their activities do not contribute to negative effects on human rights.

Overview from the European Council on Foreign Relations of the 18 EU countries (in green), which to date has published indicative warnings to citizens and businesses about the risk of legal, financial and reputational consequences of financial and economic activities in the settlements. 

Warning from European governments

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In addition, 18 European countries warn their citizens and businesses in no uncertain terms against undertaking financial and economic activities that could support illegal Israeli settlements.

“Financial transactions, investments, purchases, tenders, and other economic activities (including services like tourism) in Israeli settlements or benefiting Israeli settlements are associated with legal and economic risks due to the fact that, according to international law, the Israeli settlements are built on occupied land and are not recognised as a lawful part of Israel’s territory,” wrote the Danish Foreign Ministry in a 2014 statement similar to statements published by other countries.

“One should also be aware of possible violations of international humanitarian law and human rights,” the statement warns and refers to OECD Guidelinesfor Multinational Enterprises (2011) and United Nations Guiding Principles on Businessand Human rights(2011).

Undermining the two-state solution

In addition to the “increased risk of adverse human rights impacts”, as the UN puts it, European investors are also actively undermining the official policy of the EU regarding a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“When European investors finance, fund or facilitate the settlement enterprise and illegal actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, they are contributing to the undermining of the two-state solution and therefore the undermining of the EU’s own foreign policy objectives. And these investments are illegal under international law – or at least very problematic – and exposes European investors to reputational, financial and legal risks,” says Lovatt.Investments in companies with business activities in and around settlements tie European investors to potential violations of international humanitarian law and Palestinians’ human rights.Lars Erslev Andersen, a senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), agrees that it is problematic when companies have activities in settlements.“In my opinion, businesses that have branches or factories in the occupied Palestinian territories help to maintain the occupation and facilitate Israel’s continued construction of settlements, infrastructure and security apparatus in the West Bank,” Andersen tells Danwatch.Not a valid elementor page

Norwegian fund biggest investor

The largest single investor by far is Statens Pensjonsfond Utland, the Government Pension Fund of Norway, with €5.2 billion out of the total €7.5 billion invested in all 36 companies on Danwatch’s list.

This includes €135 million in Caterpillar, which supplies bulldozers for the demolition of Palestinian homes in the occupied territories; €286 million in HeidelbergCement, which has been blacklisted by several other European investors due to exploitation of Palestinian natural resources; and €1.5 billion in Siemens, which has installed traffic systems on Israeli roads in the West Bank and placed bids on projects on occupied territory with Israel Railways.

The Norwegian Government Pension Fund also has €233 million in five Israeli banks financing settlement construction and operating in the West Bank in various ways: Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel Ltd, Israel Discount Bank Ltd and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd.

These same banks are blacklisted by Europe’s third largest pension fund Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW) (NE) which in 2014 ended several years of dialogue.

“Given the day-to-day reality and domestic legal framework they operate in, the banks have limited to no possibilities to end their involvement in the financing of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories,” wrote PFZW (formerly PGGM) about the decision to divest from Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot because they finance settlements and operate branches on occupied territory.

Danwatch asked The Norwegian Government Pension Fund specific questions about each of their investments in the 36 specific companies, but received no specific reply. Instead the fund answers in general terms about how they expect companies they invest in to strive to observe “the G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and the UN Global Compact.”

“Our expectations are especially relevant for companies with direct operations, supply chains or other business relationships in high-risk sectors, high-risk geographical areas, or otherwise high-risk operational environments,” they explain.

The Norwegian oil fund’s decisions about excluding specific companies is regulated by an independent council appointed by the Norwegian Ministry of Finance.

New  findings will be considered

Of the five largest European pension funds, Denmark’s ATP is by far the smallest investor in companies on Danwatch’s list, with about €1 million in total in Siemens and The Priceline Group Inc, the owner of, which facilitates hotels in a number of settlements. However, ATP’s publicly available stock portfolio does not include index futures, which amounts to almost 95% of ATP’s entire foreign holdings.

On the two specific investments, ATP explains that Danwatch’s findings includes new information not covered by their external screening partner, and that they will have to consider this before they can answer specific questions.

Sweden’s largest pension fund, and Europe’s fifth-largest, Alecta Pensionsförsäkring, only has investments in one company on Danwatch’s list: Volvo Group. The Swedish industrial conglomerate partly owns Merkavim, which provides armoured busses for Egged bus lines in the West Bank, where Volvo busses are also used for transport. Two Volvo-certified garages operate in the illegal industrial zones of Mishor Adumim and Atarot in the occupied West Bank. Furthermore, Volvo excavators are used by the Israeli army to demolish Palestinian houses on occupied land, as documented in FebruaryApril and October 2016 in the Palestinian villages of Jinba, Halaweh, Um Al Kher and in the Jordan Valley. Danwatch presented these findings to Volvo Group, but received no reply.

On the subject of house demolitions, Volvo Group stated in 2011 that “Volvo neither can nor wants to take a position in international conflicts […] We regret if they are used for destructive purposes, but it does not stop us from believing that our excavators and vehicles largely play a part in making the world a little better.”

Alecta Pensionsförsäkring explains to Danwatch that their due diligence is outsourced to external partner GES, and that GES confirm their knowledge about the issue and have concluded that Volvo Group’s activities is not a breach against international conventions.

“Volvo has limited possibilities to influence how their products are used and we believe that Volvo cannot be directly linked to human rights violations,” Swedish investor Alecta therefore tells Danwatch.

“Alecta has an active and ongoing dialogue with Volvo as well as with our external partner GES and has so far not received any indication pointing towards an exclusion. If necessary we will as a first priority engage further in our dialogue with Volvo to make them comply with international law, rather than exclude them as an investment,” Alecta says.

Danwatch also contacted the two Dutch pension funds Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP and Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW), but received no reply.



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Business on Occupied Territory Mon, 16 Jan 2017 09:41:07 +0000 Danske Bank removes Bank Hapoalim from exclusion list Fri, 12 Feb 2016 11:05:08 +0000 It did not create much attention when Danske Bank removed Bank Hapoalim from its exclusion list at the end of 2015. An ongoing dialogue with Bank Hapoalim has convinced Danske Bank that the Israeli bank handles the dilemmas associated with running a bank in Israel in a good and responsible manner, says Thomas H. Kjærgaard, Head of RI and Corporate Governance in Danske Capital. Currently Danske Bank’s investments in Bank Hapoalim amount to 140.000 DKK via one index fund.

Blacklisted over settlements

Danske Bank excluded Bank Hapoalim from its investment portfolio following a smaller divestment in the bank in 2014. At the time the stated reason behind the exclusion was that the Israeli settlements are in violation of international law, and it is contrary to Danske Bank’s policy to invest in companies that contribute to such violations. Danske Bank had already excluded companies Danya Cebus Ltd. and Africa Israel Investments Ltd. over their involvement in settlement construction.

Bank Hapoalim has received criticism for financing construction in the settlements and acting as a guarantor of state loans to companies involved in the Jerusalem Light Rail-project, which connects the Jerusalem city center with settlement neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem. Danske Bank was not the only significant investor to blacklist Bank Hapoalim. Dutch pension fund PGGM and Copenhagen City Council also blacklisted Bank Hapoalim in the beginning of 2014.

‘Constructive dialogue’ behind new decision

Danwatch has contacted Danske Bank to get an explanation for the decision to remove Bank Hapoalim from its exclusion list, but Danske Bank declined our request for an interview and refers instead to an earlier written statement. The decision is based on “a thorough and constructive dialogue” surrounding the settlements, writes Head of Responsible Investments Thomas H. Kjærgaard: “It is our understanding that the bank handles the dilemmas associated with running a bank in Israel in a good and responsible manner and therefore we see no reason to continue to exclude them from our investment universe”.


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Investment funds invest half a billion in Israeli settlements Fri, 19 Dec 2014 09:09:03 +0000

Against international law

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The investment funds investigated by DanWatch are Danske Invest, Nykredit Invest, Bank Invest, Nordea Invest, Sydinvest, Jyske Invest, Sparinvest and SEB Invest. All investment funds are subject to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The UN, EU and the Danish government have repeatedly warned companies against investing in the Israeli occupation. Both the Israeli settlements, the separation wall and checkpoints in the West Bank are against  international law, since they violate the human rights of the Palestinian people.

However, DanWatch has identified investments for over half a billion in companies that deliver surveillance equipment to checkpoints, cement and building materials to the maintenance of the separation wall and bulldozers to the Israeli army. The investment funds thereby risk complicity in human rights violations in the occupied territories.

Disagreement on blacklisting

In a survey made by DanWatch, all of the investment funds refer to ethical guidelines in accordance with UN conventions, however they far from agree on which companies it is ethically viable to invest in.

For instance, the investment funds Bank Invest, Jyske Invest and Sydinvest have in total  invested 13 million dkk. in Cemex, a company that owns a cement supplier to the Israeli settlements, checkpoints and the wall. For the same reason Cemex is blacklisted by Nordea Invest, which on the other hand hold investments in the Israeli bank Hapoalim Bank, that for one provides loans to construction projects in settlements and is blacklisted by Danske Invest.

With one exception, all the funds have investments in the large American corporation Caterpillar, that supplies the D9 bulldozers the Israeli army use for house demolitions. According to Human Rights Watch it was the same bulldozers which in 2010 were used to destroy buildings while civilians were still residing.

The investments continue inspite of the Danish Government’s many appeals to Danish companies to avoid activities which could benefit the Israeli settlements. In September the Danish minister of Trade and Development Cooperation, Mogens Jensen (S) stated that:
“The government has on several occasions publicly reminded that it advises Danish citizens and businesses  against engaging in arrangements which could benefit Israeli settlements. This I appropriately remind of again”.

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The Municipality of Copenhagen continues investments in Israeli settlements Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:35:38 +0000 The Municipality of Copenhagen invests 2,2 million dkk. in Israeli settlements, shows a new research report from DanWatch.

However, such investments stand in sharp contrast to the official  position of the municipality. This summer, when the  municipality chose to exclude the Israeli Bank Hapoalim from their investment portfolio, the message from Lord Mayor, Frank Jensen was clear:

“The West Bank is occupied territory and according to international conventions it is prohibited to drive communities away from their territory in order to reside there yourself. Unfortunately we will therefore have to withdraw investments in a number of Israeli companies with activities in the illegal Israeli settlements,” said Frank Jensen.

Millions invested in occupied territory
Currently The Municipality of Copenhagen has investments for 2,2 million dkk. in seven companies that operate on the occupied territories of Palestine. Amongst these companies is the Israeli bank Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, which provides construction projects in settlements with loans and offers financial services to the local authorities.

The municipality’s largest investment of 1,3 million dkk. is invested in Cement Roadstone Holdings, a co-owner of the cement producer Nesher, that contributes to the construction of settlements, checkpoints by the separation wall and the light rail between Jerusalem and the Israeli settlements.

The settlements have continuously been declared to be in conflict with international law by the UN and the International Court of Justice, and the investment policies of the Municipality of Copenhagen are based on UN conventions. However, the investments continue.

Repeated critique
With the newest findings, the Municipality’s investments in Israeli settlements are once again the object of public attention.

In 2012, when Danwatch first wrote about the case, it was critiqued that the company G4S was part of Copenhagen Municipality’s investment portfolio. The Danish-British security enterprise supplies security services to the settlements and to several Israeli prisons where political Palestinian prisoners are held.

Back then the municipality of Copenhagen had 12 million dkk invested in international companies with activities in the occupied territories, but today the municipality has eliminated investments for around 10 million dkk by excluding G4S from their portfolio.

In a written answer to DanWatch, the Municipality of Copenhagen states that investments in companies, whose products are applied for the maintenance of the illegally occupied territories, are in conflict with the investment policies of the municipality. However a possible exclusion will  “depend on a specific assessment” in each individual case.

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Are your savings invested in illegal settlements? Tue, 20 Nov 2012 10:44:08 +0000 Danes with savings in pension funds or investment funds most probably have some of their money invested in companies which support Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. According to a new survey by DanWatch, the ten biggest pension funds and the eight biggest investment funds in Denmark each have approx. EUR 150 billion invested in companies that take part in the establishment and operation of illegal settlements.

The UN has several times declared the Israeli settlement a violation of international law, and there is unanimous agreement in the EU that the settlements are illegal. Therefore pension funds and investment funds cannot ignore the criticism, explains Steen Valentin, associate professor at Copenhagen Business School and expert in responsible investments.

”When international law, UN conventions or human rights are violated, there is no other way around it. The companies must consider the issue and ask themselves: Where do we draw the line? Do we really want to support this cause?” he says.

Investors deny responsibility – UN special rapporteur disagrees

The pension funds and investment funds explain DanWatch that their investments comply with the UN principles for responsible investment, and that the share holdings are evaluated continually in relation to the principles of the Global Compact. The Global Compact is a UN initiative whereby companies commit themselves to comply with basic standards within the fields of human rights, environment, anti-corruption and workers’ rights.

However, in a new report, UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk stresses that the principles in the Global Compact are incommensurable with the companies’ involvement in the settlements. Therefore Falk urges people to ”boycott, sell shares and impose sanctions against companies until their operations are brought in compliance with international rules and standards.”

Thomas Torp, Director of Public Affairs at PFA, the biggest pension fund in Denmark, admits that there is a problem but does not believe that selling shares will make a difference.

”We fully recognise that the there are considerable ethical problems associated with investing in companies operating on the West Bank,” he says to DanWatch. ”But generally, it is our view that we as investors solve nothing by selling our shares. We believe that we contribute best by conducting active ownership and by trying to influence these companies.”

Thomas Torp confirms to DanWatch that PFA is currently engaged in cases involving some of the companies. However, he refuses to tell which.

Construction machinery, infrastructure, surveillance…

The pension funds and investment funds have huge sums invested in companies that have supplied construction machinery and cement for the construction of settlements as well as the West Bank barrier. Banks with branches in settlements and suppliers of telecommunications, infrastructure and security services are also on the list.

The Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit is among the more controversial investments: Elbit is the company behind a specially developed surveillance system along the barrier, which has been ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice. This has prompted several Danish pension funds to ban the company, just like the Norwegian state-owned pension fund Oljefondet has done. Nevertheless, Denmark’s third biggest pension fund, Sampension, has EUR 400,000 invested in Elbit.

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Escaping Poverty – or Taxes? Mon, 24 Oct 2011 08:54:09 +0000