It all began in 2005 when Sam Saladino sold his successful financial services business and started an independent investment management company intending that the Catholic faith would be an integral part of the business. He knew God was calling him to this. For Sam, that was a great leap of faith. “I went to church, but my faith was a Sunday thing,” he recalls.
But it wasn’t that easy. Clients didn’t come and desperation started to set in. On top of it all, Sam had to have emergency open heart surgery. He felt like the whole world was against him. However, this medical crisis was a blessing in disguise: he felt the Virgin Mary’s presence, and she restored peace to his heart, helping him understand that no matter how difficult God’s path is, it is always the best one to take.
Soon after, the clarity he had been seeking for his business came to him: he would start the Epiphany Fund, a Catholic mutual fund. There were already some in existence, but Epiphany would be different—the focus would be not only on the Church’s social and moral teachings but would also include dynamic work to change society. The firm would be active shareholders, working to influence companies to be better corporate citizens. He also developed an extensive screening criteria for stocks to make sure the companies he invested in respected human dignity, were good stewards of the earth, and strove for the common good. These are pretty basic, but there are some criteria singular to Epiphany:
• OSHA, EEOC, and EPA violation: Good leadership creates a culture of accountability. If a company has significant violations, there has been a moral lapse. These lawsuits and citations are distractions from the company’s goals. They also directly impact the bottom line because of the legal fees and resulting fines.
• Executive Compensation: Being a corporate executive is a stressful job with lots of responsibility and being well compensated to do it is important. However, there is a difference between good cash and incentive programs and a $70+ million salary like the Lehman Brother’s CEO received.
• Separate CEO & Chairman: A board of directors provides oversight for a public company’s shareholders. In most cases, a company with a separate chairman and CEO has better accountability than if only one person performs these roles. After all, the board determines the CEO’s compensation.
• Employee Ownership: For the same reason executives are given stock grants, giving employees a chance to purchase company shares at discounted rates increases their commitment to growing shareholder values.
• Profit Sharing: When a company is successful, all employees should benefit not just upper management. It’s hard to fathom the amount of bonuses that were paid to executives at failing companies while employees were being laid off. Like stock, profit sharing provides a nice incentive for employees to focus on the bottom line.
Even with the reassurance of the Virgin Mary, things were rough; Sam really had taken a leap of faith with his business venture. The success of mutual funds depends on the fund’s assets; unfortunately, with the current economic situation they have been slow to grow. However, momentum is building, and this economy, as remarkable as it may sound, is his chance. He believes that investing in companies that embody Catholic social and moral teachings will not only put investors right with God but will also lead to increased shareholder value.
See, Sam likes to compare modern America to the Israelites of the Old Testament. When they had strong faith in God, they had material prosperity and peace in their nation. However, this wealth could lead them to pride, and then they would forget God. It was only when they repented and changed their ways that they would prosper again. Our country needs a conversion, and this is the time to act. Sam whole-heartedly believes that through personal holiness and integrity in the workplace, Catholics can lead families, companies, and the country back to God. The greatest and hardest lesson Sam has learned is to trust God in all things. This will bring true happiness and true conversion to humanity even through the hardest of times. Our faith will see us through.