Saturday, 27 July 2013

CofE pension fund: Wonga's not the biggest problem

I’ve stopped telling people that my Dad worked for Monsanto’s in the early 1970s because they tend to ask me questions about genetics I can’t answer: in those days, Monsanto made carpets.

So I could empathise with the Church of Scotland which, in the 1980s, came under pressure over its pension-fund investments in defence manufacturer GEC. The Kirk replied that when the shares were bought GEC made electric appliances – I remember GEC fridges well.

Down south, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is facing similar pressure over the Church of England’s pension fund investments in Accel Partners, which in turn bankrolls short-term loans provider Wonga, which makes no attempt to hide what its loans add up to in terms of 5000%-plus APR [click to see full size]:

click to go to Wonga's 'about' page

It was perhaps the ABC’s misfortune to have made a comment that the CofE would back non-profit-making credit unions that would "out-perform Wonga" days before Muslim footballer Papiss Cisse (Newcastle United) refused to wear a shirt displaying Wonga’s logo as interest is non-sharia compliant, before being pictured in the equally haram activity of gambling in a casino. The press appear then to have embarked on a mission to find more Wonga-based stories.

One might ask whether the church gave Accel money before Accel invested in Wonga. However, whatever the answer to this question, Wonga is far from the CofE pension fund's biggest problem.

More troublingly, the CofE, according to Christian Today, mirrors the Establishment both in that it was facing a pensions crisis even before Gordon Brown’s borrowing-fuelled financial meltdown, and continues to invest less than carefully.

So His Grace must decide: does he invest in such a way as to let people with sensitive consciences sleep at night, or in such a way as to avoid retired vicars and other church employees joining the ranks of the homeless?

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Archbishop Justin Welby is on the money over Wonga - Telegraph

What are the odds of that? £40,000-a-week Muslim Premier league star who refused to wear shirt sponsored by loan firm Wonga is spotted GAMBLING in casino - Daily Mail

Church of England faces pensions crisis - Christian Today, 2006">Church of England squandered clergy pensions in "reckless" stock market gamble - Daily Mail, 2009

Church of England pension fund ploughs £60m of vicars' nest eggs into risky hedge funds - This is Money, Daily Mail 2012's "about" page

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