Why Obama Matters to Every British Investor and Pension Fund; Looking to America for a Lead: President-Elect Barack Obama, Pictured with Gordon Brown Earlier This Year on a Visit to London

The Evening Standard (London, England), November 10, 2008 | Go to article overview

Why Obama Matters to Every British Investor and Pension Fund; Looking to America for a Lead: President-Elect Barack Obama, Pictured with Gordon Brown Earlier This Year on a Visit to London


Byline: COLIN MELVIN

THE Obama victory has been hailed as a historic moment but what does it mean for British pensioners, institutional investors, shareholders and companies? Very few people have completely grasped how ordinary people in the UK own large swathes of corporate America, through our pension funds and investments.

The credit crunch which started in the US, resulted in billions of pounds being wiped off our pensions and investments overnight, this could have been avoided if the owners of those companies had behaved responsibly.

There will be huge pressure on Barack Obama and his new Treasury Secretary to restore confidence in the banking system and stabilise the American economy.

Despite the fact that governments have stepped in around the world to help ease the situation, there is still growing concern around the safety of our savings, with trust and accountability in the entire financial system continuing to suffer severe erosion.

America is at the forefront of those worries. Shareholders' rights in the US are not as strong as they are in the UK so even though you and I are owners, by default, of big companies in America, our powers to hold these busi- nesses to account are limited. Most of us are still oblivious to the fact that our pension schemes are invested in companies that are taking unacceptable risks on our behalf and paying executives excessive and unjustifiable bonuses all things we can do very little about because of our limited rights as shareholders in the US.

However there may be hope in sight as Washington will be powerfully motivated to protect hard-hit pension funds.

In Obama's first 100 days of office we can expect to see the rights of shareholders strengthened. He understands the need for change to the economic landscape to prevent a recurrence of the greed and overtrading which have driven the current crisis.

Obama needs owners to shoulder their responsibilities so that the regulators can focus where they can best add value. …

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