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Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Citizens Takes Action

by: Tony Pennino

Citizens Funds feels that it has come into its own. The current environment of corporate accounting scandals has, in the opinion of executives at the New Hampshire firm, highlighted the need for the socially responsible investing strategy. "The next 24 months will be an incredible opportunity for social investing," Val Dingle, vice president of marketing at the firm, has opined.

The MutualFundWire.com spoke with Diane South, director of social research at Citizens, about the Coca-Cola decision and what Citizens is planning in the future.

"It's good to see a company get out in front and not play follow-up," South stated. She is referring to Coke's announcement Sunday that it would expense stock options for employees. "It is especially gratifying that they are doing this not under duress. They are not being required to do this by Congress. They just took this decision because it is the right thing to do. Boeing certainly has implemented a similar policy. And we are looking for other companies to follow suit, especially those in the non-tech sector."

"Some corporate executives don't take these issues seriously," she contended. "And investors are out there telling executives that they want these matter to be taken seriously."

What is next for Citizens Funds?

"We have two auditor conflict resolutions on the table for shareholders' meetings in November. They are at Cisco and Microsoft. Both of these companies pay high consulting fees to their auditors. We have a resolution before both that they limit their non-auditor fees to 25 percent," she explained. South further told the MutualFundWire.com that Citizens has not yet heard a reply from Microsoft but that Cisco has state that such a resolution does not fit its business needs.

"I think in the coming months you will see more shareholder resolutions getting higher votes," the executive added. "You will see mutual fund firms getting together and supporting resolutions jointly. With all of these corporate governance issues, you will see a lot more teamwork. In shareholders' meetings, mutual fund firms will be a force that cannot be ignored. It is an exciting time to be a part of," South concluded.

Finally, Citizens will continue to address issues of diversity and executive compensation. 

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