In the wake of the great stock market meltdown of 2008-2009, many people are rethinking the way they invest their money. The debacle brought to light widespread investment practices that are an affront to anyone who strives to invest with professional ethics and personal moral dignity and left average middle-class investors reeling from financial loss and adrift in a sea of questions regarding their fiscal futures. Still, the most fundamental questions are often overlooked: What does it really mean to be an investor? When you make your monthly contribution to your 401k or take a chance on a hyped stock pick, where is your money really going? For moral people, especially people of faith, these are questions that cannot be ignored.
In his new book, Good Returns: Making Money by Morally Responsible Investing, author and Chartered Investment Counselor George P. Schwartz, CFA, calls Christians and conservatives to pursue a portfolio that reflects their values. “When you buy stock in a company, you are not just holding a piece of paper. You become part owner of that company, and that role includes some rights and responsibilities,” says Schwartz. “Your financial investment is supporting something, and you need to do the research to ensure that you are not supporting or tacitly agreeing to activities that are morally abhorrent to you.”
Schwartz explains the important distinction between the pop culture notion of socially responsible investing and the narrower and more exacting demands of morally responsible investing. While socially responsible investments tend to screen out companies according to left-leaning causes like environmentalism, gay rights, and a broad (and often loosely defined) range of social justice issues, morally responsible investments screen out companies according to a clear set of criteria: those who support or service the abortion industry, producers and distributors of pornography, and companies involved in embryonic stem cell research.
Schwartz’s approach to investing is quickly gaining ground. His firm manages the Ave Maria Mutual Funds, the largest family of Catholic funds in America, with over 25,000 investors. With a foreword by NCAA coaching legend Lou Holtz, Good Returns has drawn endorsements from a veritable “who’s who” among pro-life leaders and influential conservatives including marriage and family advocate Phyllis Schlafly, nationally syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham, Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, and Larry Kudlow, host of CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report.”
“George Schwartz reminds investors that even the smallest shareholder is an owner of the corporation and therefore accountable for the moral suitability of its products, services, and policies,” says the Honorable James L. Ryan of the U.S. Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit. “Schwartz also destroys the myth that profitability must suffer when investors and their well-informed investment advisors ‘screen out’ big name corporations that do not measure up to the investor’s personal moral standards.” To wit, the Ave Maria Growth Fund claimed the prestigious 2009 Lipper Award for outperforming the more than six hundred other funds in its category over a three year period.
Good Returns offers time-tested wisdom on the complexities of the investment process, demonstrating why moral people make good investors and morally upright companies can be profitable investments. Schwartz also offers insightful commentary on the current political policies affecting the country’s financial condition. He points out that even in an unfriendly political climate, morally responsible investing is a way that people can make a real and positive impact.
“While the moral picture of modern American society has become somewhat clouded, most people in the USA still accept the idea that there are distinctions between right and wrong,” says Schwartz. “This gives me enormous hope for the potential impact of morally responsible investing as a lever of ethical change. I am truly honored to champion this cause.”