Back in the day, Americans trying to pressure South Africa to jettison its Apartheid system of government decided to put pressure on American businesses and other investors with financial links to Pretoria. Reverend Leon Sullivan created a set of principles in 1977 that ultimately was adopted by the United States government in 1986 that created serious economic backlash for those that profited in South Africa.
The campaign probably worked more from a moral embarrassment standpoint than an economic boycott.
I supported the campaign. I think so did most people that understood how unfair Apartheid was and how poorly it looked on America to support it in the United Nations and through investment. But managing your wallet based on your own moral compass can mean limited options and even limited returns on investments.
Anyone that considered Chinese workers to be under duress and in a state just north of slavery and refused to invest in Apple, missed one of the most amazing stock stories of a lifetime (unless they bought two months ago). The point is we all have issues that we care deeply about. The investing world is wide and surely there are enough stocks out there to avoid one that impacts your sensibilities. If there is a stock or industry that goes against your sense of morality and standards, then it is fine not to invest in or patronize that company.
But there are clear differences between sins and different opinions on how to live life. In other words, all moral compasses aren't programmed the same. Some people will not buy stocks of sugary snack companies, others cigarettes companies, and others certain stem cell operations. There are millions that have sworn off General Motors (GM) stock and its products. There are such things as company values that make it easier for me to avoid products but more difficult to not invest in that company. Offending my sensibilities is one thing, but offending my religion is another.
This brings me to the scandal of Urban Outfitters (URBN).
Cool Always on Edge
Yesterday the stock soared on a regulatory filing that suggests sales are running ahead of consensus. Beyond Wall Street, the headlines focused on the latest line of items that express vulgarity. The words used on clothes, mugs, and other items would make a sailor blush. We aren't talking about a grey area; we are talking about going there with gusto. I received a letter from a former customer of the store (see sidebar) outraged at the latest push of the envelope.
I've been in Urban Outfitters and must say this stuff has been going on for a long time. Although now it's clear the bar has risen. Initially, I was shocked and still find it hard to believe. The company also owns the ultra-cool
Charles V. Payne is a regular contributor to the Fox Business and Fox News Networks.
He is also the Chief Executive Officer and Principle Analyst of Wall Street Strategies, Inc. (WSSI)
, founded in 1991 which provides subscription analytical services to both individual and institutional investors.