Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I for one welcome our new B-corporate masters

New David Brooks Plagiarism Watch below the fold!
Change leader: From "Take Charge of your Career Like a Boss".
Shorter David Brooks, "How to leave a mark", New York Times, January 27 2015:
Both sides at a fairly cosmic level do it: markets and governments have failed, the one because of its chronic instability and irredeemable rapacity and the other because it has been captured by special interests that don't want it to do anything, which must have been caused by some more both-sides stuff such as the takeover of the Republican Party by multinational corporations and I'm sure there must be something analogous on the Democrats' part, so obviously our angle of approach for making things better should be on the market side, involving the many nongreedy investors who simply don't care about profit. If you're wealthy enough to make a difference you should make it by investing in companies whose shareholders will allow them to compensate for the failings of government by distributing free eyeglasses to the poor and that sort of thing, and if you're not maybe you could get a job working for somebody like that, and if you're very young you may live to see government coming back in some form or other some day, so it's all good.
Every Monday and Thursday night around midnight I check out the Times to see what little gift David Brooks has left me for the next morning, say to myself, "Oh, no, I'm not biting this one," and roll over toward sleep. Then of course by sunrise or so I end up thinking of something I want to do with it. But last night there was nothing; he didn't file his final draft until 3:27 am, according to my phone, so the situation must be getting pretty desperate, whether he just couldn't come up with anything until then or is having some kind of brutal passive-aggressive war with his editor.

I'm inclined to think there really must be a war element to the story, because what did go up at the website around the time when the new Brooks column would normally have appeared was a few paragraphs of reader reactions on Friday's column, under the headline "Taking Dating Advice from David Brooks", including my favorite:
“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and this is really a treatise on dating by a conservative pundit,” Gemli wrote from Boston. “If that’s what I’m looking for, I’ll read Charles Krauthammer.”
I don't believe I've ever seen anything like this in the Times, highlighting mockery of one of its writers by the readership on his own page. It's something I can kind of imagine Gail Collins doing to humiliate him, as I would wish to do if I were her (I must warn you I have studied linguistics, and if you tell me to say "if I were she" I have the power to destroy you utterly), but that couldn't be it as it's eight years since she was the editor.

David Brooks plagiarism watch:

A single unattributed source is responsible for an awful lot of the facts and conceptual material Brooks cites, and in several cases for his exact wording as well: From the Margins to the Mainstream: Assessment of the Impact Investment Sector and Opportunities to Engage Mainstream Investors prepared by World Economic Forum Investors Industries, in collaboration with Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu WEF © 2013.
Brooks: Impact investing is probably the most promising of these tools. Impact investing is not socially responsible investing. Socially responsible investing means avoiding certain companies, like tobacco growers. Impact investors seek out companies that are intentionally designed both to make a profit and provide a measurable and accountable social good. Impact funds are frequently willing to accept lower financial returns for the sake of doing good — say a 7 percent annual return compared with an 11 percent return. But some impact investors are seeking to deliver market-rate returns.
WEF: To avoid “definitional confusion,” note the distinctions among these related investing terms: “Responsible investing” encompasses an overall category that includes impact investing, as well as “socially responsible investing” and “sustainable investing.” Socially responsible investors use a “negative screen” to avoid placing funds with companies that follow objectionable environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies. Sustainable investors use a “positive screen” to find companies that follow ESG criteria, but these investors emphasize economic returns over ESG returns.
Brooks: A 2010 report by the Rockefeller Foundation and JPMorgan projected that impact investing could see new capital inflows of up to $1 trillion by 2020.
WEF: A 2010 report from JPMorgan and the Rockefeller Foundation found that impact investing could expand to $1 trillion in assets by 2020.
Brooks: That’s looking unlikely given that right now roughly something like only $40 billion has been invested through these funds.
WEF “Impact investing” – investing to earn returns and to create a measurable, positive social impact – now accounts for $40 billion in assets.
Brooks: There are more roadblocks than anticipated.
WEF: Institutional investors say that potential roadblocks and challenges deter them from impact investing.
Brooks: It’s hard to find a reliable way to measure the social impact of these dual-purpose companies.
WEF: The “double bottom line” of impact investing – financial returns and measurable social or environmental benefit – dissuades some institutional investors, who can’t gauge their success without a framework for measuring investments’ social impact – or how they perform compared to each other or to traditional buys. 
Brooks: Impact investors have also had trouble finding scalable deals to invest in. It costs as much to do due diligence on a $250 million deal as on a $25 million deal, so many firms would rather skip the small stuff.
WEF: Small transaction size can be another problem for large institutional investors; their due diligence costs for a $10 million deal can be the same as for transactions 10 times that size.
Brooks: The big players like Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse are now in the field.
WEF: new projects, such as the African Development Bank’s infusion of $100 million into Credit Suisse’s agribusiness venture, the Agvance Africa Fund.... Goldman Sachs’s $9.6 million Riker’s Island Social Impact Bond...
Also unattributed are two batches of anecdotes taken from podcasts of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, the stories of the boutique eyewear firm Warby Parker and
Brian Trelstad of Bridges Ventures [who] has looked at companies in early autism intervention, paid for by Medicaid, that can improve long-term educational outcomes while reducing spending on special education.... 
Thanks, Mr. Moral Philosophy.

Image via 49th Parallel Forum.

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