US - Texan pension funds could be forced to pull "hundreds of millions of dollars" from companies with links to Sudan after legislators filed a bill calling for divestment from the war torn region.
Senator Rodney Ellis (D - Houston) and Rep. Corbin Van Arsdale (R - Houston) yesterday filed Senate Bill 247 & House Bill 667.
The bipartisan legislation, dubbed the ‘Stop the Darfur Genocide Act, calls for the targeted divestment of state pension funds invested in companies doing business with the government of Sudan. The legislation was developed by the Sudan Divestment Task Force.
Project director Adam Sterling said the exact amount of money pension funds had invested in the region was as yet unknown, but added most had “somewhere between tens and hundreds of millions of dollars” invested in problematic companies tied to Sudan.
“That figure is relatively small compared to Texas' pension funds size, but is rather large in the context of Sudan," said Sterling.
The legislation is designed to ensure only “the most egregiously offending companies” would be affected, and excludes any company that substantially benefited those outside of government circles such as those involved in medicine, education, general consumer goods, and agriculture.
The legislation has already passed in 6 states and is similar to efforts currently underway in over 20 other states.
Sudan divestment has already proved a thorny issue in other states as it can result in pension funds taking a financial hit – the Illinois TRS lost nearly US$2m in the first half of 2006 after legislation requiring divestment was passed. Illinois (TRS) said at the time it agreed with “the principle, the idea and the goal of the legislation,” but had issues with the implementation.
While in New York, assistant comptroller for pension policy at the NYC comptroller’s office Ken Sylvester said in 2006 divesting money from Sudan was impractical and would not serve any meaningful purpose for teh time being.
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