ASIC issues infringement notice to Northern Trust Asset Management for greenwashing

ASIC has taken action for greenwashing against Northern Trust Asset Management Australia Pty Ltd (Northern Trust).

Northern Trust has paid $29,820 to comply with two infringement notices issued by ASIC regarding concerns about alleged false and misleading statements about the application of a Carbon Emissions Exclusion Screen.

Northern Trust is the Investment Manager of the NT World Green Transition Index Fund (the Fund). The Product Disclosure Statements (PDSs) of the Fund claimed to exclude companies that ‘derive 5% or more of their total annual revenues (either reported or estimated) from thermal coal-based power generation’ and have a score of 3 or 4 in the low carbon transition management score quartile.

ASIC was concerned the information in the PDSs was misleading because the Carbon Emissions Exclusion Screen was not properly applied.

ASIC Deputy Chair Sarah Court said, ‘ASIC was concerned that investors may have been misled by statements that certain energy companies would be excluded, when they were not. In this case, the exclusions and screenings were outsourced to a third-party company without significant oversight by Northern Trust.

‘We want to stress that as the publisher of these statements, it is the company itself who is responsible for them, not the third party applying the exclusions. Effective oversight of third parties is essential to avoid misleading investors.’

At least three companies were not excluded by MSCI despite the fact they failed the low carbon transition management score quartile. This meant there was an error in applying the Carbon Emissions Exclusion Screen. The affected holdings included:

DTE Energy
NiSource; and
Power Assets Holding
This issue occurred from around 1 December 2022 to 28 July 2023. Northern Trust subsequently disposed of the holdings.

Northern Trust paid the infringement notices on 19 December 2023. Payment of an infringement notice is not an admission of liability.

The specific reasons for ASIC’s concerns are set out in the two infringement notices which have been published on the Credit and ASIC Act infringements notices register.

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