Franklin brings in CalPERS' Simpson, joining stewardship push

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Anne Simpson, managing investment director for Board Governance & Sustainability for CalPERS, is seen in an undated photograph. Asset manager Franklin Resources named Simpson as global head of sustainabilty, bringing on board an influential voice among executives focused on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. CalPERS/Handout via REUTERS

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Jan 20 (Reuters) - Franklin Resources Inc(BEN.N) on Thursday named Anne Simpson as global head of sustainability, bringing in a high-profile leader as it joins other big U.S. asset managers revamping their teams overseeing environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.

Simpson has led stewardship efforts at the $488 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, often speaking out on corporate matters like executive pay and climate change which are increasingly being scrutinized by investors.

At San Mateo, California-based Franklin Resources, which operates as Franklin Templeton and has $1.5 trillion under management, Simpson will report to Chief Executive Jenny Johnson after taking up the role on Feb. 22, the company said in a press release.

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Although Franklin runs autonomous investment managers, the organization can have a major impact by "working collectively on sustainability issues," Johnson said in a press release.

“We are confident that Anne’s expertise and leadership will take our firm-wide efforts on sustainable investing to the next level," Johnson said.

Other big fund companies like BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) and Vanguard Group have also named new stewardship chiefs lately, and cast more critical proxy votes at the annual meetings of portfolio companies in which they own shares. read more

Franklin representatives declined to comment in detail on how Simpson's arrival might change its engagement or voting practices.

Data from researcher Insightia shows that CalPERS has cast significantly more critical proxy votes than Franklin. For instance CalPERS backed U.S. company directors 72% of the time last year, compared with roughly 94% of the time for Franklin.

Simpson joined CalPERS in 2009 and was named managing investment director for board governance and sustainability in 2020. A CalPERS spokesperson said James Andrus will serve in that role "while we recruit to permanently fill the position."

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Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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