New policy changes investment standards
The Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association Board of Trustees unanimously voted on Jan. 18 to implement a new policy allowing for greater scrutiny of public companies economically tied to Iran.
PERA is the largest public pension fund in Colorado. The organization controls the benefits and retirement funds for more than 400,000 current and former state workers including employees of CU.
Faculty Teaching Excellence Program Assistant and PERA shareholder Meg Clarke said she agrees with the decision to take a deeper look into companies connected to Iran.
“I think we should take away investments from any companies tied to Iran,” Clarke said.
Katie Rowan, CU benefits counselor, said PERA replaces social security for most public employees, including all classified staff at the university. Faculty or exempt professionals are considered non-classified staff and are normally covered by a different CU retirement plan.
The new policy marks the second change in PERA’s investment standards in a year. The Colorado legislature enacted a new law in April 2007 requiring the removal of all public investment funds in companies actively doing business with the government of Sudan.
The CU Board of Regents also chose to withdraw any university money tied to the Sudanese government as part of an international effort to apply economic pressure to current regime.
The advocacy group Divest Colorado, spearheaded by CU doctoral student Scott Wisor, worked hard to pass the legislation and influence the regents’ decision.
PERA Director of Communications Katie Kaufmanis said PERA was in contact with Divest Colorado and Wisor during the decision to divest money from Sudan, but stated no one associated with the university had any impact on PERA’s new Iran investment policy.
Under the new strategy, any investigated companies refusing to withdraw Iranian investments may be removed from PERA’s portfolio. PERA’s new approach will also enact a moratorium, the postponement of investment in new companies found to be doing business with Iran.
In an official statement, the PERA Board emphasized the increased financial risk associated with investment in Iran, as well as numerous reports of the country supporting global terrorism and insurgency in Iraq.
The government currently prohibits direct investment and loans from U.S. financial institutions into Iran’s energy and defense sectors.
Assistant Professor of political science Moonhawk Kim likened this private form of economic sanction to social consumer awareness.
“Many companies do this in response to the client’s demands,” Kim said. “The question is ‘what are the costs for both sides?'”
Kaufmanis said members can expect increased costs associated with the additional research into companies connected to Iran.
Kaufmanis also stressed the difference between PERA’s new strategy for Iran-related investments and the Sudan legislation.
“This is a board decision to further investigate companies tied to Iran rather than a legislative mandate,” she said. “The bar for mandatory divestment is very high. It’s genocide.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Ally Demos at email@example.com.