ASIC accuses $13.6b Active Super of greenwashing its investments in gambling and coal

ASIC accuses $13.6b Active Super of greenwashing its investments in gambling and coal

Photo: Erik McLean, via Unsplash.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has filed its second greenwashing case in just over two weeks, alleging Active Super made misrepresentations as an "ethical and responsible superannuation fund" despite having investments in sectors it claimed to restrict such as gambling, tobacco and oil tar sands.

Active Super represented on its website that it eliminated investments that posed too great a risk to the environment and the community, including tobacco manufacturing, oil tar sands and gambling.

The super fund also stated that they had added Russia to its list of excluded countries, following the invasion of Ukraine.

However, the corporate watchdog alleges that from 1 February 2021 to 30 June 2023, Active Super held 28 holdings, either directly or indirectly, which exposed members to securities it claimed to restrict, including:

  • Gambling: Skycity Entertainment Group Limited, PointsBet Holdings Limited, The Star Entertainment Group Limited, The Lottery Corporation Limited and Tabcorp Holdings Limited; 
  • Tobacco: Amcor PLC; 
  • Russian entities: Gazprom PJSC and Rosneft Oil Company; 
  • Oil tar sands: ConocoPhillips; and
  • Coal mining: Coronado Global Resources Inc., New Hope Corporation Limited and Whitehaven Coal Limited. 

ASIC also alleges that following the commencement of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, Active Super made representations from May 2022 that it would stop investments in Russian companies even though Active Super had holdings in Russian securities, which remained in place as at 30 June 2023. 

ASIC alleges Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) misrepresentations were made on Active Super’s website, disclosure documents and on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. 

"There is much competition among super funds for new members, and we know that funds seek to attract members with promises their investments will not be exposed to certain industries," says ASIC deputy chair Sarah Court.

"When making these claims super funds must have evidence to back their claims and ensure they are not promising exclusions that they cannot guarantee."

This is the regulator's third greenwashing civil penalty proceeding after taking action against Vanguard Investments Australia late last month, and Mercer Super in February.

ASIC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, adverse publicity orders and an injunction against Active Super from the Court.  

According to Superguide, Active Super is Australia's 32nd largest superannuation fund in terms of total assets under management, valued at around $13.61 billion, with 86,844 members.

A spokesperson for the super fund says Active Super welcomes the increased scrutiny on ESG disclosure standards.

"Active Super has co-operated with ASIC’s investigation and welcomes increased scrutiny on ESG disclosure standards as being good for members, the super industry and the community," the spokesperson says.

"As the matter is before the courts we are unable to comment further."

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