US - TIAA-CREF has divested from Israeli investment company Africa-Israel following allegations such company violates human rights and international law.
In a statement, the retirement firm confirmed it sold its shares in the company, which is alleged to build and maintain homes in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. It added the removal of such shares was part of a regular rebalancing of its portfolio in June this year.
The statement also said those shares were "sold after they fell out of the MSCI Emerging market Index".
The announcement responds to a letter from Coalition for Justice in the Middle East - which is also signed by 59 clients of TIAA-CREF - calling for such divestment.
The letter read: "Africa-Israel, principally owned by real estate and diamond magnate Lev Leviev, is building and maintaining illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
"Israeli settlements exist in violation of international law according to a broad international consensus. So we were very upset to discover that Africa-Israel was listed in TIAA-CREF's College Retirement Equities Fund."
The letter also said this year BlackRock divested its holdings in Africa-Israel following concerns expressed by three client Scandinavian banks due to Africa-Israel's involvement in settlement construction.
It added organizations such as Oxfam and UNICEF refused donations from Leviev and, earlier this year, the British government announced it would not rent its new embassy in Tel Aviv from Africa-Israel due to the company's involvement in settlements.
This comes after Norway's Government Pension Fund - Global excluded Israeli company Elbit Systems from its portfolio on the basis of ethical reasons (Global Pensions; September 24, 2009).
The decision was taken by Norway's Ministry of Finance, following a review of the fund's Council on Ethics, which concluded "the investment in Elbit constitutes an unacceptable risk of contribution to serious violations of fundamental ethical norms as a result of the company's integral involvement in Israel's construction of a separation barrier on occupied territory".
TIAA-CREF serves 3.6 million active and retired employees participating in more than 27,000 retirement plans and has $363bn in combined assets under management, according to data as of the end of 2008.
Standard Life has increased exposure to risk assets in three out of five funds in its Active Plus and Passive Plus workplace pension ranges.
Some 48% of employers are unaware of the services or help they offer to members of their defined contribution (DC) schemes, according to Aon.
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