Ethics Matter

This truncated brief blog is about ethics.

We wrote earlier about how foreign companies with a lot of US shareholders often mess up their investor relations because they are not as PR savvy as American corporate executives. They also often fall down on morality as well.

I was turned off owning Chilean fertilizer and lithium miner SoQuiMich by the clearly shareholder-unfriendly and probably unethical behavior of its board. Among other offenses, they nullified the votes against an insider share buyback, not only from small investors, but from large non-Chilean ones.

So we sold over protests from among others the writer who tipped the share after trekking across the Atacama Desert. I did not bother retracing her footsteps before pulling the recommendation over disgust at its shenanigans. Yesterday SQM reported that its sales and profits had fallen sharply. The fiddled board (made up of insiders from the Pinochet regime) could not continue to fiddle the company accounts to meet its whisper numbers. SQM Q3 EPS of 25 cents/sh missed by 4 cents and revenues at $466.4 mn, off 11% from last year's Q3, missed by 9%.

Another major American Depositary Receipt stock we own from India has a new CEO who has opted to get rid of bad hat executives. Their offense was not specified but probably included sexual harrassment, given the company's reputation.

One of the results of listing your ADR is that US behavior standards are required even if your firm is from an emerging market with macho traditions or dictatorial links.

*Abhimanyu Sisodia writes about Infosys, the Indian company mentioned above:

INFY fired the CFO of its Business Process Outsourcing unit for breaking the company's "code of conduct" and the CEO of the division subsequently resigned on "moral grounds." The BPO unit generated $550 mn in revenue last year, some 6%-7.5% of total revenue.

*I am off to meet the masters of RNA at Benitec's investor day. BTEBY.

*Another sign of our influence on Canada in the Nov. 14 issue of Investor's Digest. Your editor is quoted on the result at Cameco, something I would hardly expect the respected publication to need a US-based newsletter to cover given the host of analysts around the country. Maybe what they liked is that I call myself a “nuclear enthusiast” but admit that I am uncertain if “the current boost in the spot price for uranium will last in the short term.” I am proud to be quoted very frequently in Investor's Digest, the 5-time winner of the Washington Newsletter and Electronic Publications Foundation's designation as “the World's Best Investment Advisory.”

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