Opinion  

Advisers are turning a blind eye to the crisis in Crimea

Tony Hazell

Tony Hazell

Where should investors draw the line between making money and being party to misery and generally immoral behaviour?

It is a question that never seems to bother some people yet many of us do wrestle with it.

Veteran investment writer Ian Cowie is on record as saying he will not touch Invesco Perpetual Income because of its investments in tobacco companies.

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I admire his stand. Cigarette companies knowingly market their poisonous products to children through product placement.

But is cigarette manufacturing any sleazier than producing landmines that blow the limbs off children?

Once you scratch the surface, investing can be a murky business.

During the past few weeks I have been watching adviser comments on the Crimea crisis. We have had silence, reassurance and suggestions of buying opportunities.

But no one seemed to feel that perhaps some investors might no longer wish to invest in the morally bankrupt Russian regime.

Even if you overlook the takeover of part of a sovereign nation, there is the question of the inherent economic stability of a country being threatened with sanctions and reprisals.

Weighed against this, of course, there has been the fact the one of the most prominent Russian funds has long been a platform and IFA favourite – and we would not want to offend anyone would we?

That is why the statement by BlackRock founder Larry Fink, in which he said he would not put money into Russia unless the country followed international law, has been so refreshing – and so in contrast with the lack of moral fibre displayed by many IFAs.

“I would not invest in Russia at this time, not until it wants to be part of the global community,” he said.

My feelings towards BlackRock warmed considerably after Mr Fink’s statement.

Fans of Neptune Russia and Greater Russia may well take the opposite view.

After all, if President Putin continues his current course, the “Greater Russia” remit may soon encompass a far wider range of territories.

Raiding higher-rate tax relief

We really should not be too surprised that Labour is targeting higher-rate tax relief on pensions.

It is easy to argue that there are flaws in a system that gives greater incentives to higher earners than to basic-rate taxpayers.

But what is proposed is not a redistribution of existing tax relief. It is a straightforward raid similar to the one in 1997, which will further undermine the imperative to save.

There are other implications. The basic-rate tax band has been squeezed considerably in recent years, leading to ever more people paying higher-rate tax.

So it will not just be high earners who lose. In fact, more than 5m workers could be hit – many of them on fairly modest incomes.