From the depth of the Harvey Weinstein violations to the seemingly endless problems inside Uber, the past few years have witnessed a string of revelations from within many of America's largest industries. Women continue to come forward with stories about behavior once thought banished to the corridors of Sterling Cooper, and there's no reason to believe that it will end.
This is a problem that affects everybody, including individual investors.
It's easy to forget how democratic, in a sense, Wall Street actually is. Just like making retail purchases, investors in the stock market vote with their wallets. They signal their values based on which companies they choose and who they decide to avoid. Ordinarily this means supporting companies with strong profits and solid risk profiles to build the strongest portfolio.
That isn't the only way to invest though.
Putting your money into a stock makes that company stronger. It helps boost its share price, improves potential dividends and helps it raise capital in the future. As American businesses increasingly wrestle with questions of culture and basic decency, investors need to start asking themselves which kind of companies they want to support.
Do you want your 401(k) helping a firm, such as Sterling Jewelers, that has faced hundreds of harassment and discrimination allegations? Do you want to support companies that invest or supply places like Fox News? What level of proof do you need before pulling your money out?
At what point are you willing to sacrifice portfolio value in exchange for personal values? It's a similar dilemma those against gun violence face when having gun stocks in their 401(k)s.
The good news is that you don't have to fly blind. Investing around corporate behavior is the subject of an emerging field called ethical investing. Once considered a financial sideshow, ethical investing has grown into a nearly $9 trillion per year industry as more and more people decide to build their finances around their personal beliefs.
Ethical, or socially responsible, investing depends heavily on the investor. For some people it means avoiding fossil fuel stocks, or heavily investing in environmental technologies. Other investors avoid tobacco or, indeed, gun companies.
For people concerned about the way companies treat women in the workplace, it can mean pulling your money out of companies that tolerate harassment. It can also mean seeking out companies that take aggressive action against it.
Its success for the investor remains up for debate. Supporters argue that well-managed ethical portfolios can meet market performance, giving investors a strong return without helping to finance causes they find odious. Skeptics urge that this is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too argument, and that portfolios which specifically exclude high performing stocks cannot investment strategies dictated by market performance. Behind the debate, most likely, is the same reality that defines all of investing: Your return will depend on strategy, diversification and patience.
But it is possible to save comfortably for retirement or a college fund without entangling your finances with companies that makes bad decisions, and which may find themselves at the business end of massive lawsuits.
This isn't an issue of waging corporate warfare on serial harassers. Sexual harassment makes up a third of all complaints handled by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and there's no reason to believe that restructuring your 401(k) will slow that down any. Indeed, if nothing else, Uber's continued market dominance suggests that a company can flourish no matter how noxious its corporate behavior.
That doesn't mean that your money has to support it.
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