Boston Herald: Massachusetts’ state pension fund has dumped all $164 million of direct investment in companies doing business with Sudan, a country activists charge has killed some 200,000 civilians in Darfur.
The Boston Herald
By Jerry Kronenberg
Massachusetts’ state pension fund has dumped all $164 million of direct investment in companies doing business with Sudan, a country activists charge has killed some 200,000 civilians in Darfur.
Complying with a new state law, the Pension Reserves Investment Management Board has sold all stocks and bonds of Alcatel Lucent and 10 other multinationals with major Sudanese interests.
The Legislature passed the Sudan-investment ban last year amid charges that the African nation’s forces kill and rape civilians in the country’s Darfur region. Some 20 other U.S. states have similar laws.
But PRIM chief Michael Travaglini said the system only reluctantly sold Sudan-related holdings, saying that “from an investment perspective, it’s bad policy to legislate where we can put money.”
Travaglini said the ban forced PRIM to dump good investments – leaving taxpayers to cover any potential shortfalls at the fund, which pays state and municipal workers’ pensions.
“It’s amazing to me that elected officials, who represent taxpayers, seem to have a very casual view of divestment,” he said. “Everything we give up in returns must be offset by Massachusetts taxpayers.”
Travaglini also knocked a bill now before lawmakers to expand divestitures to include Iran, which allegedly funds terrorists and aims to build nuclear weapons.
State Rep. Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford), who proposed the Iran-investment ban, told the Herald he believes Massachusetts “should not be using state pension dollars to support a country that promotes terrorism.”
But Travaglini said Cabral’s measure would force PRIM to dump another $450 million or so of stocks and bonds – and open the door to even more bans. “Our position is that once you signal to the world that you’re open to divestment plans, you’ll have a line of activists around the block,” he said.