US - The House of Representatives has snubbed opposition from the Bush administration by passing two bills enabling pension plans and mutual funds to voice their opposition to the Iranian and Sudanese governments.
Both bills will establish a federal list of companies that have business links in Iran and Sudan and remove legal barriers to enable them to cut ties with these listed companies if they choose to do so.
The legislation also provides federal authority for state and local governments that decide to divest their public pension funds away from those businesses with Iranian or Sudanese connections.
Summing up the argument for opposing Sudan’s government, Ros-Lehtinen, ranking republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “It is time to stop funding the war machine in Sudan.”
The politician added: “Evidence of mass slaughter, aerial bombardments, and forced displacements targeted against the African tribes in Darfur require us to take this action.”
Meanwhile, Brad Sherman, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, said: “In order to change the policies of the worst regimes, we have to change the policies of multilateral corporations. Divestment is a key element in our strategy to put diplomatic and economic pressure on the regime in Tehran until is has given up its pursuit of nuclear weapons and curtails its support for terror.”
Approval for the bills comes after New York pension funds recently teamed up with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and other major players to address the risks of doing business in Iran.
In June, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launched an online tool in allowing investors to examine company disclosure documents to expose holdings in countries designated “State Sponsors of Terrorism'' by the US secretary of state.
Countries on the watch list included: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.
A number of pension schemes have been prompted to lock in gains with a move into bonds after the estimated deficit across FTSE 100 DB pension schemes improved by £36bn, over the 12 months ending 30 June last year, JLT Employment Benefits found.
HM Treasury has agreed in principle to give NEST a £329m contingent liability guarantee in the event of the master trust's wind up or closure.
AMP Capital has set up a dedicated team to help institutional investors, including pension funds, invest in infrastructure through direct equity allocations.