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Church of England divests from News Corporation over governance

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  • Church of England divests from News Corporation over governance

UK - The Church of England's pension fund has divested from News Corporation over its failure to implement what the scheme deemed necessary governance reforms.

In a statement released today, the Church of England Pensions Board said the £1.9m (€2.4m) of shares were sold on the advice of its Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG), after concerns were first raised in the wake of phone hacking allegations involving the News International-owned News of the World.

"After a year of dialogue between the company and the EIAG," the statement said, "the Church of England was not satisfied that News Corporation had shown, or is likely in the immediate future to show, a commitment to implement necessary corporate governance reform."

Andrew Brown, secretary of the Church Commissioners, added that the phone hacking allegations, which eventually resulted in the closure of the British Sunday newspaper, raised "some serious concerns" among the investing bodies.

He said: "Our decision to disinvest was not one taken lightly and follows a year of continuous dialogue with the company, during which the EIAG put forward a number of recommendations around how corporate governance structures at News Corporation could be improved."

Brown added that the EIAG did not feel "sufficient change" had been achieved and the Commissioners had therefore accepted its recommendation to sell the stake.

Although the statement did not detail the Church's concerns, a letter sent to the board of News International parent company News Corporation - owner of 20th Century Fox and publisher Harper Collins - last year insisted that the company's board take "all necessary measures to instil investor confidence" in News Corp's ethical and governance standards.

In a statement from July last year, it added: "We cannot imagine circumstances in which we would be satisfied with any outcome that does not hold senior executives to account at News Corporation for the gross failures of management at the News of the World."

The Church of England currently operates three pension schemes, for clergy, lay employees and workers of its national institutions, respectively.

Since the scandal broke, News Corporation has been subject to shareholder pressure from a number of sources, with Hermes Equity Ownership Services threatening in October last year to withhold support for the board.

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