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Life imitates art as hedge fund manager Jeff Ubben launches public-market impact fund

ImpactAlpha, June 24 – This season’s plotline on Billions, Showtime’s saga of wealth and corruption co-created by financial journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin, finds Wendy Rhoades (played by actor Maggie Siff) and Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon) maneuvering to turn Bobby Axelrod’s (Damian Lewis) Axe Capital into an impact investment fund.

Now comes activist investor Jeff Ubben, the founder of ValueAct, a $16 billion activist hedge fund, who is turning coat on traditional finance in favor of impact investing in public markets.

Ubben is leaving ValueAct to launch Inclusive Capital Partners with investor Lynn Forester de Rothschild, who also runs the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism. The new fund will deploy ValueAct-like boardroom pressure to unlock long-term returns by driving social and environmental impact.

  • Next big thing. “Finance is, like, done,” Ubben told the Financial Times. “Everybody’s bought everybody else with low-cost debt. Everybody’s maximized their margin. They’ve bought all their shares back… There’s nothing there. Every industry has about three players. Elizabeth Warren is right.” Pushing companies to tackle environmental and social issues, says Ubben, can create big returns.
  • Impact delta. While a fresh look for Ubben, using shareholder leverage to influence corporate social and environmental practices is a long-tested model for firms like Boston Common Asset Managers and activist asset owners like members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. The ‘ESG engagement equities’ strategy at UBS uses shareholder engagement to help companies in emerging markets improve financial performance by improving labor standards, supply chain management, and environmental practices.

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