Thursday, 13 December 2007

A letter to Fidelity: the sequel

Round two. This letter has gone in the post tonight -

Dear XXX

Thank you for your letter of 6th December. I appreciate the time you have taken to respond.

However I feel I am not much clearer about the issues I raised. Firstly, and most importantly, I am no clearer as to whether Fidelity intends to make further donations to the Conservative Party.

We took out our ISA with Fidelity with a view to it helping pay off our mortgage, and therefore intended to be long-term customers. To be completely honest we would really rather avoid the aggravation of having to change fund manager if at all possible. However, as I hope I made clear in my previous letter, this issue will affect our decision about whether to continue to be a Fidelity customer. As such it is something about which we need to have a clear and unambiguous answer.

Secondly, I understand and accept that Fidelity undertakes public policy work, including engaging with politicians and civil servants, in order to influence the political and regulatory environment for financial services. However I find the suggestion that partisan political donations are part of Fidelity’s engagement programme unconvincing.

If the donations to the Conservative Party are purely part of this effort, then why have donations been made solely to the Conservatives and not the other major political parties? (I have checked on the Electoral Commission website to confirm this) The Conservative Party is not currently in government and as such has far less influence over the legislative and regulatory framework affecting financial services than the Labour Party. Looking more widely, the Liberal Democrats sit on key committees such as the Treasury Select Committee. So if these donations genuinely were part of Fidelity’s public policy engagement work, rather than partisan political support, I would expect to see donations to other parties too.

Thirdly I continue to believe these donations create a significant conflict of interest when Fidelity is seeking business from local authority pension funds which have Conservative Party representatives on their pension panels.

Finally, I genuinely think this is something Fidelity should be much more open about with its customers. I can honestly say that we would not have taken out an ISA with Fidelity had we known about these donations beforehand. Yet I can find no mention of these donations on the website or in any of the documentation we have been sent over the past 6 years.

If the company is a partisan supporter of the Conservative Party, and intends to continue to be so in future, this should be made clear to clients and potential clients in order that they can make an informed choice about whether to do business with Fidelity.

To sum up, I am simply trying to understand why these donations are being made, and whether they are going to continue, in order that we can decide whether we wish to continue as Fidelity customers. So I will try to make my questions as clear possible -

1. Why has Fidelity only made party political donations to the Conservative Party?
2. Does Fidelity intend to make further donations to the Conservative Party in future?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely


Andrew Brown said...

Good luck on this, you're quite right that companies should be as transparent as possible about how they are funding political parties, and the strategic decisions they're taking about future donations.

Very much enjoying the blog by the way, it's teaching me things!

Tom P said...

Glad you like it!

I'm trying to make as many people as possible aware of these donations. Bloody annoying when you've been with a company for several years to find out that they have been funding people you have a fundamental disagreement with.