Catholics Divesting Due to Domestic Partner Benefits

January 15, 2004 ( - Some investors are not impressed by companies adding domestic partner benefits, and are selling shares in these companies to adhere to strict morale investing guidelines.

The torchbearer for Catholic conscience investors, Ave Maria Mutual Funds, said it sold off 51,900 shares of Eli Lilly and Company and 10,000 shares of Pepsico because of their domestic partner benefit offerings.   The two fund holdings have a market value of $4.2 million, according to a news release.

“Both Lilly and Pepsico were sold from the portfolios because as of January 1, 2004 they began offering non-marital partners benefits to employees, which violates one of the screens established by our Catholic Advisory Board,” President of the Funds, George Schwartz said in a news release.

Lilly and Pepsico will have plenty of company on the outside looking in.   Currently, the investment screens eliminate about 400 companies from the Russell 3000.   As for current and future holdings, a stock is sold immediately, if the company begins violating a screen after the funds have invested in the stock, according to the funds’ screening process.

While the process will definitely have its detractors, Schwartz says the proof is in the papal pudding, pointing to the Ave Maria Catholic Values Fund finishing 2003 up 35.55%, compared to the S&P 500’s 28.68% return.   In fact, since the Fund’s May 1, 2001 inception, it has returned 9.92%, while the S&P 500 index is down 3.18% over the same period.

Both of Ave Maria’s mutual funds are managed by Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based Schwartz Investment Counsel, Inc, which is charged with following the morally responsible guidelines established by the Advisory Board.   Those guidelines are meant to exclude investment in companies that violate core teachings of the Catholic Church such as companies related to abortion, pornography and those that contribute to Planned Parenthood. The mutual funds are designed for pro-life and pro-family investors (See Ave Maria Sings Praises of Two New Funds ).