Saturday 7 December 2019

Church of England cuts ties with payday lender Wonga


Ryan Hooper

The Church of England has severed its ties with payday lender Wonga, it has been announced.

The Church Commissioners for England, which produces money to support the Church of England, said it was "pleased to announce" the indirect investment exposure to Wonga in its venture capital portfolio has been removed.

It comes a year after it emerged that the Church of England helped to fund the payday lender, prompting the Archbishop of Canterbury to state he wanted to "compete" the firm out of business.

A commissioners spokesman said tonight: "[We] no longer have any financial or any other interest in Wonga."

In a statement tonight, the Church Commissioners said it had not made any profit from their connections to Wonga.

The statement said: "At no time have the Commissioners invested directly in Wonga or in other pay day lenders. The indirect exposure of the Commissioners through pooled funds represented considerably less than 0.01% of the value of Wonga.

"The Commissioners are pleased that another way forward has been agreed given their fiduciary duties to clergy pensioners and to all the parts of the Church they support financially."

It said the Commissioners believe venture capital to be "a good and useful instrument with significant potential to serve the common good", but that a number of "ethical investment changes" had been made.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said he was irritated and embarrassed last July after it emerged that the Church of England helped to fund the short-term, high-cost credit firm he wanted to drive out of business.

The Most Rev Justin Welby suggested a comprehensive review of the Church's investment portfolio could follow, after he expressed his unease over its ties to Wonga.

Although the amount of Church money indirectly invested in Wonga was less than £100,000 out of investments totalling £5.2 billion, it proved embarrassing for the Archbishop, who had spoken out against the payday lending industry.

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