Expert Interview: Mark Langerman
Mark J. Langerman is Managing Director of the Patriot Fund and in this role he assists with educational initiatives to raise public awareness for Terror-Free Investing. Mr. Langerman has been nationally recognized as an expert on terror-free investing as it has gained popularity in recent years. Among other speaking engagements, he has been interviewed by media outlets such as Fox News, Investors Business Daily, and Forbes in regards to his work with terror-free investing. We’re proud to count Mark as a partner in the Patriot Fund and are pleased to share a recent interview conducted with him by the Center for Security Policy.
What exactly is “terror-free” investing?
Terror Free Investing (TFI) gives people Power. One of the reasons people invest in mutual funds is to give the portfolio manager investment powers to make buy and sell decisions on their behalf. However, most people may not be aware or fully understand the implications of their choices in regards to who they invest with and how it can effect our national security and the safety of our men and women in uniform. Most people are not aware that the heavy machinery manufacturers or technology companies that they invest in through their mutual funds and retirement plans pump vital money and resources into regimes that are killing Americans through their support of terrorism. When you invest in an international conglomerate that sells everything from computer systems to technology that can be “re-purposed” for military use to Iran or Syria, you are in essence supplying them with what they need to wage their war on the West. It’s more than dollars that stream to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to do their dirty work. It is about the communications equipment that Siemens sells them that they can use to further their nuclear program or the spare plane parts that Boeing sells them to keep their planes in the air. Simply put, TFI gives people the opportunity to take a stand and actually be part of the economic war on terror, but that’s not the only benefit. We believe that terror-free investing can also reduce shareholder risk by avoiding investments in volatile, terrorism-dependent economies (countries known to have high “global security risks”). TFI is investment with a purpose, a movement meant to change corporate behavior and reward investors with a clear conscience and the potential for superior returns on their investments.
When we refer to “terror-free” investing, we’re not referring to individuals and entities on the Treasury Department’s OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) list, but rather companies that choose to give corporate life support to terrorist nations, correct?
Yes, that’s correct. These companies which now stand at over 600 globally are the lifeblood of these terrorist economies.
There has been a great deal of talk over the years that state sponsorship of terrorism was no longer the major concern because of the emergence of “transnational” terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. That’s not necessarily true is it? And even Al Qaeda has benefited from relations with these nations, correct?
Ask yourself what country’s plot to assassinate people on American soil was recently uncovered? What country supports insurgents abroad who are fighting American soldiers? What country’s proxies were involved in blowing up the Marine barracks in Lebanon that killed 241 American service men and women and injured scores more? And yes, even Al-Qaeda has benefitted and by some measures are still benefitting from their relationships with state sponsors of terrorism. That country is, of course, Iran.
What other Jihadist terrorist organizations receive aid and comfort from the nations targeted by the Patriot Fund?
Terrorism doesn’t happen in a vacuum; terrorist organizations need the support of sympathetic countries to run their organizations. In addition to Al Qaeda, which we just talked about, Hezbollah and HAMAS have both benefited from state sponsorship from Iran, Syria and Sudan.
Which nations are targeted under terror-free investment policies?
Iran, Syria, North Korea and Sudan.
This seems like a category that Wall Street is ignoring, despite the horror that they faced on September 11th, 2001. What prompted you to go against the grain and get involved in terror-free investment management?
After over 20 years as a financial advisor, I was at a conference in Washington D.C. and sat through two breakouts sessions that discussed the growing movement to engage state governments to divest their pension fund portfolios from companies doing business with Iran. When I got back to Arizona and started researching more about this, the more I learned, the more shocked I was that this was going on and more importantly that Wall Street had done nothing about it. I immediately knew then that I had to do what I can to make a difference.
You only recently partnered with Ascendant to launch the Patriot Fund, but you actually have been in the terror free investment management business for some time. Is that correct?
Yes, my interest in terror-free investing began several years ago when I attended that seminar at an industry conference. Since then my business partner and I have been educating and providing people with the opportunity to invest terror-free. When we first began, TFI was limited to our own clients, but we always had the goal in mind of growing this to allow people across all financial and political spectrums, regardless of who your financial advisor is, a way to invest terror-free. To do this we needed to find a high quality, experienced firm with the capabilities and desire to manage a mutual fund that pursues a terror-free investment strategy. We found that in Ascendant Advisors and partnered with them to launch the Patriot Fund.
Most Americans would be shocked to learn that companies that they invest in have active business ties to terrorist-sponsoring nations. With all the reports and talk of the ever-escalating sanctions on Iran in particular, how many companies are still doing business in and with Iran, Sudan and Syria?
Over 600 globally including over 10% of the S&P 500 representing over $1.4 trillion of market capitalization.
Is it true that Chinese companies especially do a great deal of business with Iran? What other nations of note have companies with extensive active ties to these terrorist nations?
As of March 31st 2012, China had 37 companies, India had 52 and the U.S. had 53 - kind of surprising and disappointing.
Does terror-free methodology inhibit investment performance?
No. In fact we believe that since TFI helps reduce global security risk in your portfolio that this may add to performance over time. We have data that shows over the past 8 years a terror free portfolio has outperformed its non-terror-free counterpart 5 of those last 8 years. That’s one of our strongest points when talking to people about investing terror free, that they can make a difference and help fight terrorism while still doing well financially for their families.
You’ve mentioned ‘Global Security Risk’ a couple of times now – can you explain this a little further?
A recent example I can give has to do with Schlumberger Ltd, a Houston, TX based energy company with a market cap of nearly $100 billion. In Schlumberger’s recent annual 10-K statement they disclosed their operations in terror sponsoring nations and stated “If any of the risks described above materialize, or if any governmental investigation results in criminal or civil penalties or other remedial measures, it could reduce our earnings and our cash available for operations.” That, in a nutshell, is Global Security Risk – the risk to the company’s bottom line and ultimately shareholder value due to business practices in these volatile, terror-sponsoring nations.
Why do you think Wall Street has been so slow on the uptake of terror-free investing?
I think that Wall Street and Main Street have had divergent interests in many areas over the years. Wall Street has to do well for people in the long run but how they get there is a different story. I think that as movements like terror-free investing grow in strength and numbers they will have to stand up and take notice and ultimately start offering terror-free alternatives to their clients. That’s why I was so excited to partner with Ascendant and start making a difference. We could also spend hours taking about other reasons I think they haven’t taken it up but maybe we can save that for another time.
Thank you Mark for your time and knowledge to help us provide people information on such an important topic that is not often spoken about. We hope to speak with you again soon!
My pleasure, I look forward to next time.
*Interview conducted July 13th, 2012 by Christopher Holton, Center for Security Policy
Investors should carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of the Patriot Fund. This and other important information about the Fund is contained in the prospectus, which can be obtained at http://www.ascendantfunds.com or by calling 855-527-2363. The prospectus should be read carefully before investing. The Patriot Fund is distributed by Northern Lights Distributors, LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. Ascendant Advisors, LLC. is not affiliated with Northern Lights Distributors, LLC.
Mutual Funds involve risk including the possible loss of principal. There is no assurance that the fund will achieve its investment objectives. The Fund’s adviser has limited experience managing a mutual fund. Because the adviser screens out Terror Nations-related issuers, this will reduce the number of potential investments available to the Fund and the Fund may not perform as well as unrestricted funds. A higher turnover may indicate higher transaction costs and could result in higher taxes when Fund shares are held in a taxable account.
Investors should carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of the Ascendant Funds. This and other important information about the Funds are contained in the prospectus, which can be obtained at www.ascendantfunds.com or by calling 855-527-2363. The prospectus should be read carefully before investing. The Ascendant Funds are distributed by Northern Lights Distributors, LLC, member FINRA. Ascendant Advisors, LLC is not affiliated with Northern Lights Distributors, LLC.