Correspondence with investment consultants & information on managing pension fund climate risk

Joel M Benjamin made this Freedom of Information request to Newham Borough Council Automatic anti-spam measures are in place for this older request. Please let us know if a further response is expected or if you are having trouble responding.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Newham Borough Council,

Please provide the following information in relation to Newham management of pension fund climate risk, & information & advice on same provided by external investment consultants including (but not limited to) Aon, Mercer,  Allenbridge Epic and Hymans Robertson.

1) Please provide emails & correspondence between council employees (Newham finance function + responsible investment & pension fund mg), procurement, elected members (on pension fund committee) & external investment consultants on climate risk between 2018 and 2023

2) Please confirm if specific advice or information on climate risk has been sought by Newham and received from Mercer, or other such external investment consultants? - If so please provide copies of this information. (key search terms include "climate risk", "physical risk", "asset allocation" and "fossil fuels")

3) Please provide the following data points in MS Excel format in relation to each external climate risk analyses undertaken on the councils investment portfolio, noting the date/ year + provider of each analysis:

i) Warming scenarios applied, i.e 2degC, 3degC, 4,degC, 5degC, 6degC & year in which it is suggested each warming threshold considered by the scenarios will be reached?

ii) Projected gains or losses for the portfolio &/or GDP activity for each scenario/year assessed

iii) Specifics of any change(s) to asset portfolio allocation recommended by the consultants to reduce the risk of future financial losses and/or to reduce financed emissions across the portfolio

Yours faithfully,

Joel M Benjamin

London Borough of Newham, Newham Borough Council

 
 
FOI/EIR Information request
Our reference: 22084449

══════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════

Dear Joel M Benjamin
 
Freedom of Information Act 2000
 
Thank you for your request for information that was received on 20 March
2023.
 
We are dealing with your request under the Freedom of Information Act
2000 and we aim to send a response by 19 April 2023.
 
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 may restrict the release of some or
all of the information you have requested. We will carry out an assessment
and if any exemptions apply to some or all of the information you have
requested we will advise you accordingly in our response.  We will also
provide you with details of how you may appeal (if appropriate).
 
Should you require anything further please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Yours sincerely
 
Information Rights Team
London Borough of Newham - People at the Heart of Everything We Do
[1][Newham Council request email]
 
 
NOTE: Please do not edit the subject line when replying to this email.
 
Disclaimer
This email contains proprietary confidential information some or all of
which may be legally privileged and/or subject to the provisions of
privacy legislation. It is intended solely for the addressee.
If you are not the intended recipient, an addressing or transmission error
has misdirected this e-mail; you must not use, disclose, copy, print or
disseminate the information contained within this e-mail. Please notify
the author immediately by replying to this email.
Any views expressed in this email are those of the individual sender,
except where the sender specifically states these to be the views of the
London Borough of Newham
This email has been scanned for all viruses and all reasonable precautions
have been taken to ensure that no viruses are present. The London Borough
of Newham cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage arising from
the use of this email or attachments.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[Newham Council request email]

London Borough of Newham, Newham Borough Council

1 Attachment

 
 
FOI/EIR Information request
Our reference: 22084449

══════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════

Dear Joel M Benjamin
 
Thank you for your request for information received on 20 March 2023.
 
Please find attached our response to your request.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Information Rights Team
London Borough of Newham - People at the Heart of Everything We Do
[1][Newham Council request email]
 
 
NOTE: Please do not edit the subject line when replying to this email.
 
Disclaimer
This email contains proprietary confidential information some or all of
which may be legally privileged and/or subject to the provisions of
privacy legislation. It is intended solely for the addressee.
If you are not the intended recipient, an addressing or transmission error
has misdirected this e-mail; you must not use, disclose, copy, print or
disseminate the information contained within this e-mail. Please notify
the author immediately by replying to this email.
Any views expressed in this email are those of the individual sender,
except where the sender specifically states these to be the views of the
London Borough of Newham
This email has been scanned for all viruses and all reasonable precautions
have been taken to ensure that no viruses are present. The London Borough
of Newham cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage arising from
the use of this email or attachments.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[Newham Council request email]

Dear London Borough of Newham,

Thanks for your response

Please note this request has been sent to 80+ LGPS funds, and you are the first council to raise widespread interpretive concerns re: understanding the scope of the request.

You have calculated that gathering this information will exceed the cost limit, but I believe that this is a significant overestimation of the resource required.

In refusing this request, council states: "the cost of dealing with the would exceed the appropriate limit, which for local authorities is £450. Being the *estimated cost of one person spending 18 hours in determining whether the council holds the information, including locating, retrieving and extracting the information."

In its refusal notice, council has not confirmed what the relevant search terms/ procedures are for the purpose of narrowing this request? nor whether or not these terms are consistent with the search terms set out in my FOI request? Given climate risk advice primarily relates to a single consultant - Barnett Waddingham, in no way is this an exhaustive task.

Additionally, as is required under FOIA - council has not provided guidance as to how to narrow the scope of the request, so as to fit within cost limits. In the absence of support from council on this, I suggest the following in order to help clarify the request, and bring costs within scope:

1) reduce the email keyword search terms to "climate risk" and "climate scenario analysis" only,

2) Reduce the number of email inboxes to be searched to the following, (in order of preference, should you need to exclude any based on time):

- Stephen Wild Head of Pensions and Treasury
- Rakesh Rajan Pension Fund Manager
- Chair of the Pension Fund Committee
- Conrad Hall Corporate Director of Resources
- Head of Procurement

3) Reduce the applicable search period to 2020-2023 only.

Furthermore, it is likely that the investment consultants will attempt to block FOIA disclosure of climate risk information - citing "commercial sensitivity" concerns on the part of consultants providing the council with information & advice.

As you may be aware, ICO guidance states that when applying a commercial sensitivity exemption, an authority "must show that because [the information] is commercially sensitive, disclosure would be, or would be likely to be, prejudicial to the commercial activities of a person (an individual, a company, the public authority itself or any other legal entity)".

In DoH vs Information Commissioner (EA/2008/0018) - it was held that while some contractual information may be exempted from disclosure, this should not result in the blanket exemption of whole contracts or documents, and any decision to redact or disclose should be taken on a clause by clause, point by point basis.

Please note I have zero interest in obtaining commercial fee or price structure information relating to information, contracted services, or advice the council has sought and received from external third parties - the request is targeted at the communications of senior council staff, with no realistic expectation of privacy when conducting public affairs - in order to better understand how public money is being invested and spent - and how councils responsibilities to manage climate risks, protect the environment, and contribute towards achieving the UK's wider net zero goal are being shaped by external investment consultants.

Procurement framework guidance provided by council to the consultant(s) at bidding stage makes clear that any communications or information provided to the council will be subject to FOIA. Additionally, any climate risk assessment advice or modelling undertaken by the consultant(s) is only made possible with information and investment assumptions provided by council to the consultant(s), therefore any attempt to hide behind commercial sensitivity claims could be viewed as a convenient vehicle by which Newham could shield the various assumptions it makes about the future impacts of climate change on future fund returns from effective public & LGPS member scrutiny.

Release of climate risk information would likely benefit both LGPS scheme members, and local taxpayers, by providing reassurance that the scheme is actively managing climate risks in line with its fiduciary duty, whilst attempting to lower the funds climate impact.

The information requested pertains to climate risk assessments relating to significant public expenditure - namely, consultancy expenditure and the pension scheme investments of public sector workers - underwritten by the taxpayer, and how those schemes are managed in a way which provides for both a stable income in retirement for members, and either contributes towards achieving a liveable climate for scheme members and wider society, or as is presently the case - further contributes to the ongoing growth in global emissions - driving climate breakdown.

As such, given both the substantial sums of public money being managed, and the schemes investments in large financial, transportation, industrial, agricultural and fossil fuel sector companies driving climate change - there is a legitimate public interest in understanding upon what information and advice scheme funds are being invested, and that such information and climate risk advice, in the absence of any regulatory oversight, is consistent with the latest climate science on expected future global warming, and its likely effects on both the environment, and future pension scheme returns (please note that in addition to FOIA, such information on financed emissions & climate risk also undoubtedly falls within the scope of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 legislation).

Yours sincerely,

Joel M Benjamin

London Borough of Newham, Newham Borough Council

 
 
FOI/EIR Information request
Our reference: 22804785

══════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════

Dear Joel M Benjamin
 
Freedom of Information Act 2000
 
Thank you for your request for information that was received on 19 April
2023 with further details.
 
We are dealing with your request under the Freedom of Information Act
2000 and we aim to send a response by 19 May 2023.
 
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 may restrict the release of some or
all of the information you have requested. We will carry out an assessment
and if any exemptions apply to some or all of the information you have
requested we will advise you accordingly in our response.  We will also
provide you with details of how you may appeal (if appropriate).
 
Should you require anything further please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Yours sincerely
 
Information Rights Team
London Borough of Newham - People at the Heart of Everything We Do
[1][Newham Council request email]
 
 
NOTE: Please do not edit the subject line when replying to this email.
 
Disclaimer
This email contains proprietary confidential information some or all of
which may be legally privileged and/or subject to the provisions of
privacy legislation. It is intended solely for the addressee.
If you are not the intended recipient, an addressing or transmission error
has misdirected this e-mail; you must not use, disclose, copy, print or
disseminate the information contained within this e-mail. Please notify
the author immediately by replying to this email.
Any views expressed in this email are those of the individual sender,
except where the sender specifically states these to be the views of the
London Borough of Newham
This email has been scanned for all viruses and all reasonable precautions
have been taken to ensure that no viruses are present. The London Borough
of Newham cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage arising from
the use of this email or attachments.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[Newham Council request email]

London Borough of Newham, Newham Borough Council

 
 
FOI/EIR Information request
Our reference: 22804785

══════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════

Dear Joel M Benjamin
 
Thank you for your request for information received on 19 April 2023.
 
Please find attached our response to your request.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Information Rights Team
London Borough of Newham - People at the Heart of Everything We Do
[1][Newham Council request email]
 
 
NOTE: Please do not edit the subject line when replying to this email.
 
Disclaimer
This email contains proprietary confidential information some or all of
which may be legally privileged and/or subject to the provisions of
privacy legislation. It is intended solely for the addressee.
If you are not the intended recipient, an addressing or transmission error
has misdirected this e-mail; you must not use, disclose, copy, print or
disseminate the information contained within this e-mail. Please notify
the author immediately by replying to this email.
Any views expressed in this email are those of the individual sender,
except where the sender specifically states these to be the views of the
London Borough of Newham
This email has been scanned for all viruses and all reasonable precautions
have been taken to ensure that no viruses are present. The London Borough
of Newham cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage arising from
the use of this email or attachments.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[Newham Council request email]

Joel M Benjamin

Dear London Borough of Newham,

Please note your email response states "please see attachment" for the response - but there was no such attachment with this email.

Yours sincerely,

Joel M Benjamin

London Borough of Newham, Newham Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Joel M Benjamin
 
Please accept our apologies for this. Please find attached our response to
your request.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Information Rights Team
London Borough of Newham - People at the Heart of Everything We Do

══════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════

Dear London Borough of Newham,

Please note your email response states "please see attachment" for the
response - but there was no such attachment with this email.

Yours sincerely,

Joel M Benjamin

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