Investors have sold hundreds of millions of pounds worth of shares in Kingspan, which supplied part of the combustible lining system at the Grenfell Tower, after mounting pressure from grieving families for companies involved in the 2017 disaster to get started. to face the consequences.
Baillie Gifford, until recently one of Kingspan’s largest shareholders, sold an estimated £ 200 million worth of shares in the Irish firm in a series of deals in February and March, according to records analyzed by The Guardian. Four other asset managers have also reported the sale of holdings in recent months and others have put the investments under review. They include specialist ethical funds originally attracted to Kingspan because their insulation products reduce carbon emissions.
Grenfell United urged all investors to divest, telling them it wanted “consequences for corporate bodies like Kingspan, which played a central role in inflicting the pain and suffering felt by bereaved and survivors to this day.”
The public inquiry into the disaster has heard that Kingspan sold its plastic foam insulation without telling customers it had failed fire tests. The investigation heard from a Kingspan executive answered to a contractor who pointed out that the material could fuel fires in some uses by suggesting that “they can go to hell themselves, and if they’re not careful we’ll sue the [sic] they”.
When another contractor complained to Kingspan, “he had not substantiated … on what basis [its insulation] it is suitable for buildings taller than 18m, “Philip Heath, Kingspan’s technical director, told a colleague:”[They] They’re mistaking me for someone who doesn’t give a damn [sic]”.
Kingspan has admitted “unacceptable conduct and historical deficiencies in processes, involving a small number of employees,” but said this “did not reflect the high standards of integrity and security that are Kingspan’s core values.”
With an ongoing police investigation into potential corporate homicides and fire-related health and safety crimes likely not to result in indictment decisions until 2022, the survivors and families of the 72 people who died have been lobbying privately. to investors to “immediately divest from a company that pushed dangerous products into the market and tried to dishonestly market them, thus putting innocent lives at risk.”
Kingspan said in response that it “condemns any action that does not demonstrate an adequate commitment to fire safety.” He added: “We strongly believe that systems incorporating K15 [the foam used on Grenfell], which have passed a full-scale fire test, are safe when installed correctly the way they were tested. ”
Baillie Gifford, before cutting off his properties, told Grenfell United that “the allegations of misconduct at Kingspan were deeply concerning.” He declined to comment further.
It emerged last week that WHEB, which manages an ethical fund, had sold its shares citing “an attitude that prioritized commercial advantage over product safety.” According to investment committee minutes He said he felt a “lack of confidence in the governance of the company”, although he said that “it seems clear that the main failures at Grenfell were due to the cladding system as a whole rather than a specific failure in the insulation that was used.” .
Grenfell United welcomed the sell-offs and said it would push for more investors to do the same. He also wants the firms involved in Grenfell to be excluded from public contracts. The investigation has heard that Arconic, who made the combustible cladding panels, probably knew before the fire that they were dangerous on the facades, and that Celotex, which did most of the insulation, had prepared a key test to make their foam combustible. it seemed safer than it was.
“It’s amazing that people still put money into businesses that have demonstrated a clear lack of concern for human life, public safety and a culture of pure greed,” said Grenfell United. “The investigation made it clear that they only care about profit. While it won’t bring our loved ones back, it helps to know that these companies are not getting away with it. In our eyes, Kingspan and their peers shouldn’t be in business after what they did. “
Other recent sellers of Kingspan shares that were pressured by survivors include Pictet Asset Management, which sold all of its holdings in February this year, Guinness funds, which were sold in the final months of 2020, and Management of Lionstrust assets, which reduced its stake, froze any new investment and said it was awaiting the findings of the investigation.
Impax’s asset management said it had reduced its position “significantly” and would keep its remaining investment “under active review.”
Kingspan’s combustible foam insulation, Kooltherm K15, has been used extensively in apartment blocks, including many that are now caught up in the fire safety crisis affecting hundreds of thousands of high-rise homes.
While Kingspan’s share price is 12% lower than before evidence of its conduct was revealed in the investigation, the company reported an increase in earnings for 2020 of around £ 330 million. Its chief executive, Gene Murtagh, owns approximately £ 1.4bn worth of company shares and sold £ 3.1m worth of stock options shortly before evidence about Kingspan was revealed in the public inquiry, causing a drop. of the share price.
Kingspan declined to comment on the stock transactions. In February, Murtagh said: “We have already implemented several important changes that demonstrate our commitment to product compliance and good governance. Our goals are clear: to ensure that safety takes precedence over all other considerations and to ensure that this never happens again. ”
The investigation will restart next week, when the tower’s selected residents will testify about their relationship with the city hall owner prior to the fire. It will be the first time that the investigation has been spoken of since it began almost three years ago with the commemorations of those who died in the fire.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism