Domini Social Investments Becomes First Mutual Fund Company to Provide Public Access to its Current Proxy Voting Decisions via the InternetSocially Responsible Fund Challenges Mutual Fund Industry to Provide Greater Transparency Firm Also Publishes Free Fourth Annual Proxy Voting Guidelines and Social Screening Criteria for 1999
New York, NY – Amy Domini, Managing Principal of Domini Social Investments, the manager of the Domini Social Equity Fund (DSEF) (ticker symbol: DSEFX), announced today that Domini Social Investments had become the first mutual fund company to provide public access to its current proxy voting decisions for each of the 400 companies in its portfolio. Domini also announced the publication of the firm's fourth annual Proxy Voting Guidelines and Social Screening Criteria.
"In 1992, our semi-annual report to shareholders described how we would vote our proxies on a range of issues. In 1996, we became the first mutual fund to publish comprehensive annual proxy voting guidelines. Now we have become the first mutual fund company to provide public access to the specific proxy votes, for each company in our portfolio. Shareholders deserve to know how the mutual funds they invest in are voting their shares. We're very excited to provide this further example of our commitment to put our shareholders' principles to work," said Ms. Domini.
"Assets managed by mutual funds have grown to 5.7 trillion dollars. Billions of shares are being voted on issues of great import to us all. It is shocking that proxy-voting decisions are generally not disclosed to mutual fund shareholders. We believe that shareholders have an absolute right to know how their fund managers are voting their shares," Ms. Domini continued. "We strive for transparency in all that we do, and we challenge other mutual fund companies, whether they consider themselves 'socially responsible' or not, to do the same."
Visitors to Domini Social Investments' web site, www.domini.com, can choose any of the 400 companies in the Domini Social Equity Fund's portfolio, see a brief description of the issue being voted on, and view Domini's vote. The web site will be updated on a daily basis, as proxy materials for each company become available. The firm intends to post their votes approximately two weeks prior to each company's annual meeting. The web database of meetings and voting information was developed and is being maintained by Proxy Monitor, a New York-based proxy research and voting firm.
"Along with social screening and investing in community development, activism and education are an essential component of what we do. This new feature on our web site is an extension of our existing shareholder activism program and our efforts to educate investors about how to use their voice in this process. Our Proxy Voting Guidelines and Social Screening Criteria, which we distribute for free each year as a public service, describes how we will vote our proxies on a wide variety of issues, from the environment to corporate governance," said Ms. Domini. "We want our investors and the corporations we invest in to know where we stand. We are committed to sustaining an ongoing dialogue with the corporate community, and to work with them to address issues of corporate responsibility. Furthermore, we sincerely hope that the public will consider our Guidelines and our public voting record, to be a resource for them as they vote the shares they may own individually." Domini Social Investments, which currently manages over a billion dollars in assets, casts votes for each of the 400 companies in its portfolio, covering approximately 1,000 individual proposals per year.
According to Tim Smith, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), and a DSEF board member, "Domini's Proxy Voting Guidelines are an extremely valuable contribution to the social investment movement, providing specific voting advice on virtually every important area for social investors in 1999. The Domini decision to disclose each and every one of their votes stands as a challenge to the rest of the mutual fund industry and indeed to all major investors. It is time for all mutual fund managers to recognize what the Department of Labor has already declared in the context of ERISA funds -- the proxy is an important asset, which should be voted with due regard for shareholders' interests. Huge mutual fund managers routinely vote their proxies in deference to management, supporting backward policies on tobacco, sweatshops and the environment, to name but a few. We believe it is time to let the sun shine in. Mutual fund managers should disclose their voting records."
In addition to disclosing its proxy voting, and publishing its voting guidelines, Domini Social Investments' web site will soon feature an Investor Activism Center with an extensive range of social-issue shareholder resolutions being voted on this year, including an opportunity to send email directly to company CEO's. This data base-driven web tool was developed and made available by SocialFunds.com, a financial web site for socially responsible investors, in collaboration with ICCR.
Ms. Domini hopes that through the web site enhancements and the publication of these guidelines, shareholders will also be made aware of the role Domini Social Investments plays in placing these issues on corporations' proxy ballots.
This year, the firm co-filed eight resolutions on a range of issues, including board diversity, environmental reporting and sweatshops. Domini was a lead filer of resolutions with Walt Disney Co. on contract-supplier standards, and with H.B. Fuller, asking the company to discontinue its sales to the tobacco industry. Along with other concerned investors, this year Domini Social Investments has continued to engage companies in dialogue on social issues, including Disney and Sears, Roebuck on overseas labor conditions, and Johnson & Johnson concerning conditions at its facilities in Mexico.
Domini Social Investments' proxy votes can be viewed online at www.domini.com. Investors seeking additional information on the Fund, or a free copy of the firm's Proxy Voting Guidelines and Social Screening Criteria, may call (800) 762-6814, or visit the web site.
Domini Social Investments manages over a billion dollars in assets for individual and institutional investors who are working to create positive change in society by using social and environmental criteria in their investment decisions. The firm's flagship product, the Domini Social Equity Fund, is a socially screened no-load index fund. The firm also offers an FDIC-insured community development money market account through its partnership with South Shore Bank of Chicago.
The 40-page Guidelines were developed in cooperation with Kinder, Lydenberg, Domini & Co., Inc. (KLD) of Boston, Massachusetts, Domini Social Investments' adviser on social screening, with assistance from ICCR. The Guidelines describe Domini's voting policy on more than 50 types of resolutions, and also cover the firm's involvement in shareholder resolutions on a variety of issues. Accompanying the Guidelines is a complete description of the social criteria used by KLD in maintaining the Domini 400 Social Index, the index upon which the Domini Social Equity Fund is based.