Fireside Chat

Preventing the Next Catastrophe: Why ESG and Impact Investors Should Work Towards Reducing the Risks of Nuclear Weapons

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Please let me know if I can you email you a draft of my upcoming report, which will give you a better sense of the proposed content for the fireside chat (it has not been published yet and I have not posted it online anywhere).

I have spent considerable time over the last twenty years, including currently forgoing a traditional career on Wall Street, trying to warn the investment community about a potential catastrophe that could create an incredible loss of life and untold human suffering while bringing down capital markets and the economy.  Unfortunately, my focus had been on nuclear weapons rather than pandemics. Fortunately, COVID-19, despite all the pain it has wrought, is likely not nearly as bad as a nuclear conflict could be.

It was a mistake for global leaders to ignore warnings over the last several years about a pandemic, with that resistance continuing even after the pandemic had begun. Similarly, it is a mistake to assume our 75-year run of luck in avoiding nuclear conflict will not run out, and clearly governments are not doing everything they can to head off a nuclear conflict in the not too distant future. As COVID-19 should also make abundantly clear, investors and the broader financial and business communities, along with academia and all corners of civil society, must not rely on governments alone to head off major potential catastrophes like pandemics, nuclear conflict, and climate change. Let us take COVID-19 as a warning that we must be proactive in heading off this grave nuclear risk.

During this fireside chat I will have an expert lay out the potential nuclear weapons risks around the world and discuss the many historical near-misses with respect to nuclear catastrophe. I will then tie that back to a call to action to investors and the private sector – which bring to bear incredible potential resources, capacity for innovation, and influence – to help prevent a nuclear conflict. I hope to start a dialogue among ESG investors on how ESG screening of large (mainly public) companies might better take into account the risks that various industries pose in terms of nuclear weapons and how to encourage companies and the collective marketplace to take steps to reduce such risks (it ain’t just about divesting weapons manufacturers). My second major goal is to convince Impact investors that they should finance projects – some potentially for-profit projects – targeting nuclear risk reduction.

While most SOCAP attendees are generally not focused on nuclear weapons risks, they should be.  I will also make the subject of nukes relevant to them by comparing and contrasting it to other existential risks like pandemics and climate change, along with demonstrating how preventing nuclear conflict is important for avoiding climate change and for accomplishing all of the SDG’s.

Confirmed Panelists

David Epstein (me), Chartered Financial Analyst – David is currently a Fellow at the N Square Innovators Network. N Square brings together nuclear experts and experts in other fields such as finance, technology, and media in order to devise innovative ways to reduce the threats of nuclear weapons. He has written multiple articles on the risks of nuclear weapons to economies and the capital markets and the need for the investment community to work on preventing such risks.

Previously, he spent nearly 20 years as a financial research analyst on Wall Street. From 2010 through 2019, he worked at investment bank Cowen Inc. (and CRT before being purchased by Cowen), where he published research on debt and equity securities for an institutional clientele.

Before that, David spent nearly 10 years at two multi-billion dollar (AUM) money management firms – Advent and Froley Revy – focused on both debt and equity.

David has an MBA in Finance from UCLA and BS in Psychology from Johns Hopkins.

Unconfirmed Panelists

Tom Collina – Tom is co-author, with former Defense Secretary William Perry, of “The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman to Trump.”

As director of policy for Plougshares Fund, Tom brings 25 years of Washington, DC experience in nuclear weapons, missile defense and nonproliferation issues. He has worked extensively as a researcher, analyst, and advocate to strengthen the efforts to end US nuclear testing, rationalize anti-missile programs, extend the Nonproliferation Treaty, and secure Senate ratification of the New START Treaty among others.

Prior to joining Ploughshares Fund in 2014, Tom served as Research Director of the Arms Control Association.  He was the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Institute for Science and International Security and the Director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, among other leadership positions. He has published widely in major magazines and journals and has appeared frequently in the national media, including The New York Times, CNN, and NPR. He has testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and regularly briefs congressional staff. Tom has a degree in International Relations from Cornell University.
Stephen Schwartz – Stephen is a Fellow at the N Square Innovators Network and nonresident Senior Fellow at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and an independent consultant with 35 years of experience analyzing, writing about, and speaking out on nuclear weapons issues at both the grassroots and national levels. He previously served as editor of The Nonproliferation Review, publisher and executive director of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, guest scholar and project director at the Brookings Institution, Washington representative for the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, and legislative director for nuclear campaigns at Greenpeace USA. Stephen is the author of numerous articles and reports, including “Nuclear Security Spending: Assessing Costs, Examining Priorities” (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2009). He is also the editor and co-author of the groundbreaking book Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 (Brookings Institution Press, 1998). His passion for nuclear policy was ignited and nourished at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he earned a BA in sociology with a minor in politics.

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