Rod Liddle

Get rich with unethical investment

Rod Liddle says that it is not only entertaining to put your money into companies that  behave naughtily. It is also economically lucrative: so buy more stocks today

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Rod Liddle says that it is not only entertaining to put your money into companies that  behave naughtily. It is also economically lucrative: so buy more stocks today

Are you worried about the size of the footprint you are leaving on this earth? More specifically, are you worried that it might not be big enough? I may have the solution. The Spectator Unethical Investment Fund (SUIF) is a chance for all those decent, God-fearing, rather right-of-centre citizens to put their money where their mouths are, for once. Sick of politicians whining about corporate responsibility? Of being hectored to plant a bloody forest every time you make a trip to Florence or La Rochelle, or of being chided about salt content and packaging and aggressive child-oriented advertising techniques every time you eat something possessed of flavour? Does the sight of a packet of fair-trade coffee make you inwardly cringe? Fight back. Invest with us. You know it makes — well, if not sense, then at least a bit of spite and fun. And it would make an awful lot of money.

You will be familiar with ethical investment trusts, which will take your hard-earned dosh and invest it in firms which have passed some arbitrary ‘ethical screening process’ — a pompous, sententious phrase if ever there was one. This usually means firms which have no dealings in any of the fun things in life — e.g., cigarettes, pornography, alcohol, gambling and violence. On average, these ethical investments give you a much lower return on your investment than portfolios which take no notice whatsoever of the political fashionabil-ity of the firms in question. But you are intended to swallow your losses, happy in the knowledge that while you might be less well off than otherwise, at least the poor Africans are happy with you. Or the rainforests, or the ozone layer, or God. To take one entirely average example, the Halifax ethical investment portfolio would have given you a 5.6 per cent return over the last 12 months — almost precisely half what you would have got if you’d entrusted your money to a blind imbecile with a pin and a copy of the FTSE. Some ethical investment portfolios do much better, of course (that’s why I said ‘average’ of Halifax). The F&S fund, for example, boasts a return of 25 per cent — although how ethical some of its companies are is open to dispute. Vodaphone? Have the screeners at F&P seen that advert? Have they heard the ringtones?

The portfolio I have chosen is of a very different complexion. It was drawn up with an almost total ignorance of how well each company has performed financially. It took note only of how conventionally wicked they all were. In other words, I searched through the FTSE and Dow Jones index for the firms which most outrage liberal — and indeed any normal sentient — opinion. And I drew up a list of 13 such companies which, year on year, would have given the investor a return of — yo, order that Porsche right now — 23 per cent. Well up in the top division of investment portfolios. Malevolence pays, you see. Even a wholly arbitrary selection of wicked companies will give you almost five times as much as the good guys.

Some of the companies I wanted to invest in, I couldn’t. There was, for example, the firm run by the Suffolk farmer David Lucas, which makes gallows to be deployed by Third-World African dictators — Gaddafi and Mugabe, for example. He does a terrific trade despite resembling one of the backwoods people in the film Deliverance. He does multiple gallows, too, so you can hang five dissidents in one go. All his products are exquisitely wrought from the finest English oak. ‘The beauty of it is,’ Mr Lucas told a rather unhappy reporter from the Guardian, ‘you can use it over and over again.’ But Mr Lucas’s company is not listed, sadly. Nor is United Nuclear Scientific Supplies of Texas, who will sell you a chunk of polonium for 40 quid.

Instead, we have the usual suspects, the firms which appear each year on liberal hate lists. The underperforming Caterpillar trucks of Peoria, Illinois, for example. See those Palestinian villages get bulldozed by the Israelis? Who do you think made the bulldozers and flogged them to the Israelis? Yep, got it in one — and thus Caterpillar is on the internet in first place in the list of ‘Evil Companies’. Sadly, they saw a 5 per cent fall in their share price, year on year; the worst achievers on my list. Come on you Israelis, get busy!

My other poor performers were BAe, despite it owning a subsidiary which sells various nasty stuff to the Saudis and even threw in some electric cattle prods free of charge in the last order. Its stock rose by less than 5 per cent last year, but now that the government has dropped its corruption proceedings against the Saudis, leaving BAe free to fulfil its lucrative contracts, watch that price soar over the next year! Up 5 per cent just this week!

Ladbrokes — gambling for chavs — up 18 per cent. McDonalds — purveyors of processed rubbish to the entire world — up by 28 per cent, regardless of Jamie Oliver’s deprecations. Chevron oil — another company listed on various agitprop websites as the most evil ever, ever, ever, in Christendom — up by 14 per cent.

The real big hitters, however, deal in fags, guns and cheap aeroplane flights for morons. Indeed, it would appear that those companies which have suffered the most from government attacks or vindictive legislation thrive nonetheless. Ryanair — yet another unacceptable face of capitalism, and one with a peculiarly irritating chief executive — up by a massive 45 per cent. Only a nose away from my list’s top performer, those gun-totin’ dudes at Lockheed-Martin. And a special commendation for the tobacco giants Gallagher, purveyors of very fine cigarettes. They may ban them here, there and everywhere — but we will still smoke. Up by 38 per cent.

The wonderful thing about the Spectator Unethical Investment Fund is that it should attract discontents from the radical Left as well as the Right — from those of us who are not entirely convinced by the notion of investment and still less by ‘ethical’ investment, and are not impressed by the thought of some huge corporation deciding which players in the market have transgressed by indulging in an enterprise which middle-class liberals don’t really like the sound of. It has the whiff of fantasy about it, don’t you think? And as the ethical investment portfolios become more and more competitive — which is what’s happening right now — then presumably the various fund managers will become more and more, um, relaxed about which firms are allowed in the list. Tomorrow, Rio Tinto Zinc, Union Carbide (or Dow); the day after that, perhaps, David Lucas, with his fine English gallows.