Colorado pension fund divests millions from Russian bank

PERA is doing this to comply with federal sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

DENVER — The Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), which provides retirement benefits to state public employees, will withdraw millions from Russia’s largest financial institution after the invasion of Ukraine .

A spokesperson told 9NEWS on Friday that PERA had invested $8 million in five Russian companies. Of that amount, $7.2 million belongs to Sberbank, a Russian state bank specifically identified in the new federal sanctions.

The other companies are OGK-2, Gazprom, Mosenergo and Rosneft Oil. PERA always determines what actions will be taken with the money in these companies.

Colorado State Treasurer Dave Young (D), who sits on PERA’s board of directors, said Colorado is investing overseas to diversify the portfolio.

“The goal is to have a lasting benefit for our members,” Young said. “We want to make sure the benefit is there for them when they retire. So when we invest, we make sure we diversify the portfolio and spread the investments out so that if a little piece is not doing well, there are others who do better.”

Currently, PERA is “reviewing and preparing to implement” the mandate. They plan to meet the federal deadline to complete this work.

While Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) on Thursday called on PERA to divest Russian-owned assets, PERA said the action instead responds to federal sanctions and does not divest businesses unless directed to do so by the state legislature or federal government.

RELATED: Polis says Colorado will impose sanctions on Russia

Polis announced that he also wanted the Treasury to divest if necessary. Colorado Treasurer Dave Young said the office had reviewed his investment portfolio “and can confirm that the Colorado Treasury Department does not hold any Russian-owned assets.”

The governor also urged universities to reconsider projects or grants with Russia, called for the termination of any state contracts with Russian-owned businesses, and said Colorado would leave the Russian consular office in Houston.

PERA’s overall portfolio is worth more than $61 billion this week.

President Joe Biden continued on Friday to announce new sanctions targeting Russia, including some imposed directly on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

RELATED: White House to Impose New Sanctions on Putin Himself

RELATED: Biden Hits Russia With New Sanctions, Says Putin ‘Chosen’ War

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Dolores W. Simon