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by James M. Branum

Beware Mennonite Investors — MMA Praxis Mutual Funds invest in evil: Fox News, payday lenders, private prisons, and more

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I currently have a very small amount of investments with the MMA Praxis mutual funds, but I don’t think I will for much longer.

For my non-Mennonite readers, I should say that MMA is rooted in the mutual aid tradition, the idea that members of the faith community should take care of each other. But like a lot of good ideas, it got institutionalized and then its values got diluted.

MMA today offers a bunch of different products – insurance, investments, credit union, etc. And the profits of MMA fund lots of good stuff. But I’ve found out some things that have made me question the whole company, in particular the investing strategy of the Praxis funds.

What I heard when I first started investing with them was that Praxis didn’t invest in companies that did defense contracting and that they didn’t invest in companies with substantial involvement with tobacco or alcohol. (here is MMA’s explanation of their screening process)I also understood on the positive side of things that MMA seeks to invest in companies that did good things (alternative energy, community development). I knew that they invested in some pretty questionable companies as well (i.e. Wal-Mart) but that they did engage in shareholder advocacy in those companies to try to promote some positive good. — From day one, I thought the shareholder advocacy thing was a cop-out, a rationalization to invest in companies that might make high profits. But I also thought as a whole MMA did more good than bad.

But this week I got my semi-annual report as a MMA Praxis investor. For the first time ever, I spent some significant time looking at all of the things that MMA Praxis invests in. What I discovered is that I was wrong. MMA invests huge amounts of their investments in truly evil companies, far more than they invest in their positive poster-child investments.

I think rank and file MMA investors need to know the truth about MMA, so I’ve spent a little time reviewing their stock holdings. I don’t know enough to investigate each individual company, but I do read the news and know enough to point out some truly “evil” companies, that do some pretty wretched things. So, for each of the MMA Praxis funds, I’m giving them each a percentage of “evil” score, that shows how much MMA Praxis invests in companies that are clearly and unequivocally engaged in practices that no real Mennonite would want to support.

MMA Praxis Core Stock Fund9.27% EVIL

COCA-COLA CO. 0.34 % (a company that is behind the murder of union leaders in Columbia)
J.P. MORGAN CHASE & CO. 2.77 % (took bailout funds when poor people were suffering, engages in predatory lending and credit card marketing)
NEWS CORP CLASS A 1.09 % (owners of Fox News, aggressive pro-war propagandists)
United Health 0.84% – (a company that is encouraging their employees to lobby against health care reform and attend the “tea parties”
WELLS FARGO & CO. 4.23 % (“one of the largest investors into the GEO Group. The GEO Group operates private prisons and immigrant detention facilities which have been criticized for serious abuses of detainees.”, also the company also engages in predatory lending and is being sued by the state of Illinois for pushing Black and Hispanic people into sub-prime loans- see wikipedia


MMA Praxis Growth Index Fund5.93% EVIL

AETNA, INC. 0.17 % (aggresively lobbying against health care reform – see http://thinkprogress.org/2009/09/23/aetna-cnn-healthreform/ )
COCA-COLA CO. 0.94 %
HUMANA INC. – HEALTHCARE 0.13 % (engages in “astroturf” style lobbying against health care reform
MCDONALD’S CORP. 1.63 % (McDonald’s is a ruthless company that will do anything to crust opposition to its policies as illustrated by the famous “McLibel” case)
UNITEDHEALTH GROUP, INC. 0.31 % (see above)
WAL-MART STORES, INC. 2.75 % (aggressive union-busting company)

MMA Praxis Intermediate Income Fund Didn’t rate

This one was harder to rate because it invests in bonds, some of which were issued by companies that have been since bought up (i.e. Bear Stearns) But this fund is still pretty wretched, as many of its investments are in companies that got major bailout funds while the rest of us got sent to the cleaners.


MMA International Fund 3.2% EVIL

JPMORGAN US GOVT MM AGNCY 1.45 % (see above)
ROYAL DUTCH SHELL PLC-A 0.86 % (responsible for some pretty horrific stuff in the oil field in Nigeria)
TEVA PHARMACEUTICAL – ADR 0.89 % (Israeli pharmaceutical company which supports the occupation of Palestine)


MMA Small Cap Fund 7.1% EVIL

CASH AMERICA INT’L INC 1.08 % (international chain of pawn shops and payday loan sharks!!! – here’s the company’s page that about their payday loans) How in the world can a MENNONITE company possibly justify this kind of evil?!)
FIRST CASH FINL SVCS INC 0.86 % (pawnshop/payday loan shark company)
JPMORGAN US GOVT MM AGNCY 5.16 % (see above)


Value Index Fund 17.56% EVIL

AETNA, INC. 0.19 % (see above)
BANK OF AMERICA CORP. 3.57 % (took huge amounts of federal bailout funds,
CAPITAL ONE FINANCIAL 0.31 % (abusive subprime credit card company)
CIGNA CORPORATION 0.25 % (this company refused to pay for hte liver transplant of Nataline Sarkisyan, even though it likely would have saved her life)
COCA-COLA CO. 1.66 % (see above)
COCA-COLA ENTERPRISES 0.14 % (see above)
CONAGRA FOODS, INC. 0.35 % (EVIL, EVIL company, so bad that Wikipedia has a huge amount of discussion on the horrid labor and environmental practices of the company. Conagra is also aggressive in pushing for genetic engineering of our food supply.)
GOLDMAN SACHS GROUP, INC. 2.18 % (very shady practices by this company that led to much of the recent economic downtown)
J.P. MORGAN CHASE & CO. 3.96 % (see above)
JPMORGAN US GOVT MM AGNCY 0.24 % (see above)
NEWS CORP CLASS A 0.57 % (see above)
NEWS CORP. – CL B 0.17 % (see above)
UNITEDHEALTH GROUP, INC. 0.47 % (see above)
VF CORP. 0.20 % (ask the good folks in Seminole, OK how they feel about this company, after they shut down the Wrangler plant and then moved it to Mexico… and now I hear they are shutting down the plants in Mexico to find even cheaper labor markets)
WELLS FARGO & CO. 3.30 % (see above)


MMA Money Market Account 100% Good!

Assets held in the PMMA are deposited in ShoreBank, a leading community development banking corporation.


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Written by James M. Branum

September 26, 2009 at 4:25 am

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