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News from the North Shore regarding Turtle Bay Resort

July 03 2007 |
by Surfrider Foundation International Program

Church Pressures Oaktree
The owner of Turtle Bay also manages funds for the United Methodist Church

By Kristen Consillio
Honolulu Star Bulletin

The pension and benefits arm of the United Methodist Church is pressuring the owner of Turtle Bay Resort to resolve its dispute with opponents of the resort's planned expansion.

Owner Oaktree Capital Management LP, which manages some of the $15 billion in assets of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church, has come under fire after Hawaii parishioners voiced concerns about whether the company is adhering to the church's strict social principles that deal with fairness, equity and the environment.

"We're aware there is a problem and encouraged Oaktree to find a resolution on those issues, so they know we're putting pressure on them from that standpoint," said Colette Nies, managing director of communications for the pension and benefits board. She added that the church has no economic interest in Turtle Bay.

Nies said that the board screens investment managers to ensure they are complying with the stringent social policies governing the church. The church could vote to remove Oaktree as a money manager if the company doesn't resolve the disputes surrounding the proposed expansion.

Oaktree is one of 46 investment managers for the pension and benefits board, which oversees the retirement, health and welfare benefits of more than 66,000 clergy and church employees nationwide, including roughly 8,000 workers in Hawaii.

But some local church leaders and parishioners believe that although the church has no interests in Turtle Bay, simply allowing Oaktree to manage their money conflicts with their beliefs.

"How do you make the distinction when you're engaging a firm that is violating the principles?" said Stanley Bain, a retired Methodist minister who lives in Kailua. "We are still using an investment manager which owns Turtle Bay. It's a gray area."

A local entity that represents 44 churches in the Hawaii district, which includes Guam and Saipan, sponsored a resolution to tighten guidelines for investment managers, after opposing Oaktree's plan to develop up to 3,500 hotel and condominium units on Oahu's rural North Shore.

The resolution was approved last week by a larger body of the church representing Southern California and the Pacific and will move on to the church's top governing entity next year.

"If a company is so bent on making money that they can't consider the needs of the people who live there, that's against our social principles," said Barbara Grace Ripple, pastor of a United Methodist church in Kaaawa and former superintendent of the Hawaii district. "I don't think Oaktree has the interest of the people of the Koolau region at heart. Oaktree is in this to make as much money as they can and get out."

Representatives of Oaktree Capital were not available for comment yesterday.
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