KiwiSaver fund manager Milford Asset Management dumped its shareholdings in social media giant Facebook on Monday and joined the call from government-backed retirement fund managers for Facebook, Google and Twitter to take greater care monitoring content posted to social media platforms.
That follows the live-streaming on Facebook of the attack on two mosques in Christchurch last Friday in which 50 people died. The attack footage was also shared on other social media, including Google-owned YouTube.
Milford founder Brian Gaynor confirmed the sale by the fund, which manages close to $14 billion of investors' funds and holds about 2.8 percent of the KiwiSaver market according to figures from Morningstar. The firm has one of the strongest records of investment returns over the decade that the KiwiSaver retirement savings scheme has been in place and follows an active investment strategy.
Gaynor said Milford held "just over 60,000" Facebook shares, valued at US$9.93 million according to data from Nasdaq, the US tech stock exchange where Facebook is listed. Its total market capitalisation is US$427.2 billion.
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The firm had also pulled all Facebook advertising, although "we may come back, if Facebook substantially increases its monitoring", he said
The majority of KiwiSaver fund managers invest passively, meaning they tend to hold units in other managed and index funds where they have limited say over which shares investors are exposed to.
Milford chief executive Mark Ryland said the company backs calls from the country's three largest telecommunications firms and four government-backed fund managers, including the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and Accident Compensation Corp, for "coordinated engagement with the large social media companies to seek change and greater responsibility for content on their platforms".
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"The events of the past week have been devastating," Ryland said in a statement. "Facebook, Google and Twitter must take action following the live-streaming and content sharing on social media of the Christchurch terror attacks.
"Not acknowledging any responsibility for their platforms is not acceptable. Social media companies need to provide genuine assurance around their course of action."
The momentum for a substantive response from social media platforms grew as the government today announced an immediate ban on the sale of semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles, and large-volume magazines. It plans a buy-back programme to take such guns out of public circulation at an estimated cost of $100 million to $200 million.