Remember when the Duchess of Sussex had avocado toast and the Daily Mail said she was personally “fuelling human rights abuses, drought and murder”? Good times. I wondered when the Daily Mail and other dusty British outlets would find a similar angle for the Sussexes’ investment and impact-partnership with Ethic, which they announced this week. The British media was all set to focus on “Lilibet’s christening” this week, so it took them several days to find an argument for why Harry and Meghan’s ethical investing is terrible. Are you ready to hear why? Prepare yourselves. You might need to sit down. Harry and Meghan’s ethical investing is bad because Ethic actually has a diverse portfolio of investments in social media companies, Amazon, Tesla, Nike, Cadbury’s and pharmaceutical companies! HOW DARE THEY.
The ‘hippy’ Wall Street investment firm backed by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle owns tens of millions of dollars of shares in Twitter, Facebook and YouTube’s owner Google despite the couple decrying the ‘hate’ they have encountered online and their personal crusade against fake news. Ethic, where Harry and Meghan are ‘impact partners’, has pumped clients’ money into the world’s largest social media platforms alongside oil companies and the biggest corporations in America as part of its business managing $1.3billion of investments for around 1,000 wealthy clients.
Ethic’s financial filings reveal a long list of investments in American corporate giants, similar to the holdings of a traditional investment portfolio. These reveal that the $1.3 billion fund has $6.9 million in Facebook shares, a $2 million investment in Twitter and $32 million stake in Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube.
Ethic’s filings with the US Securities and Exchange commission shows that it manages stock worth up to $45 million in Apple and millions of dollars more in corporates including Microsoft, Amazon, Coca Cola, Visa, Nike, and Tesla. The fund hold shares in multiple oil and gas companies, several airlines and many of the world’s biggest automotive manufacturers including General Motors, Honda and Toyota – despite Harry and Meghan’s green campaigning.
There are also $4 million of shares in US food giant Mondelez, the owner of Cadbury’s, who were accused in 2018 of destroying tens of thousands of hectares of orangutan rain forest habitat because of their palm oil suppliers. The Sussexes have both campaigned on forest conservation and the protection of endangered species. They also have shares in the pharmaceutical giants producing the world’s Covid-19 vaccines, who Harry and Meghan believe should give up the patents on their jabs.
The Daily Mail truly went through Ethic’s SEC filings line by line. That’s how obsessed the DM is with finding something to criticize when it comes to Harry and Meghan. And let’s be clear: if the Sussexes had invested their money in just a regular old hedge-fund, the criticism would have been “how dare they invest in yadda yadda yadda.” If they kept all of their money in a bank, they would be criticized for using a bank which did something terrible years ago too. The most egregious part, for me, was this: “There are also $4 million of shares in US food giant Mondelez, the owner of Cadbury’s, who were accused in 2018 of destroying tens of thousands of hectares of orangutan rain forest habitat…” Why isn’t the headline about that?? “Meghan Markle’s ‘ethical’ investing destroys rainforest, orangutan habitat.” You know they wanted that to be the headline. Why did they choose the social media angle? You can criticize social media companies and still invest in them.
The only mildly critical thing I’ll say about Ethic and the Sussexes is that yes, of course when you call yourself an “ethical investment” firm, people are going to hold you to a higher ethical standard. I have no doubt that Ethic is making smarter and less dangerous investments than its competitors, but I also have no doubt that Ethic could be making even smarter choices. And that’s as far as I’ll go – I’m not playing the Mail’s game and no one else should either.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid.