Investment analyst turns corporate critic

Fr. Seamus Finn

Fr. Seamus Finn

January 20, 2014

An investment analyst has downgraded the stocks of three of America's highest-profile companies – Apple, Amazon.com and Philip Morris – to "sell" status over the moral and ethical issues of their business practices.

While nonprofit groups have urged divestment of certain companies' stocks for decades because of their corporate conduct, a Catholic priest who tracks company behaviour said he could not recall a for-profit analyst ever doing the same.

"It's the first time that I have seen it, yeah," said Father Seamus Finn, director of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate's justice, peace and integrity of creation initiative.

In his Jan. 5 email, the analyst, Ronnie Moas, founder and director of research for Standpoint Research, blasted the conduct of all three companies.

"Philip Morris has the black lungs and blood of 500,000,000 people on their hands," Moas charged. Philip Morris USA, a wholly owned subsidiary of Altria Group, is best known for several tobacco brands.

As for Apple, Moas said, "For Apple Computers to pay their workers $2 an hour while they have $150 billion in the bank is nothing short of obscene."

Apple has come under criticism in recent years for the low wages and poor living conditions given by Apple's contractors to the Chinese workers assembling Apple devices.

Moas took Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to task for pressuring his workers despite his personal net worth of $27 billion.

"$27 billion and this man is not treating his workers fairly? It boggles the mind."

Amazon had come under fire for putting more pressure on employees working without air conditioning in its warehouses.

"It's what we've been doing for a long time," Finn told CNS, but Moas' action "elevates it to the point where it deserves some attention."