Pennsylvania school pension fund to sell off Russian assets

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s largest public pension system will begin selling its investments in Russia and Belarus after its board voted unanimously to do so Thursday in light of the invasion. Russian from Ukraine.

The $72.5 billion public school employee retirement system is one of the largest public pension funds in the country. The vote targets what it says is nearly $300 million directly invested in Russia and Belarus, less than half of 1% of the fund’s total assets. Belarus has been a key Russian ally in its attack on Ukraine.

The board’s motion includes a caveat: this surrender must be consistent with the board’s prudent fiduciary duty. But the motion also decreed that the system would make no future investments in Russia or Belarus until it votes to change that policy.

Governors and lawmakers in many US states have moved to withdraw public investment from Russian companies, while encouraging private entities to do the same.

In Pennsylvania, lawmakers have begun drafting legislation to compel the state Treasury Department and the state’s three public pension funds to divest Russia-related assets.

The Treasury Department said it sold as much of the $2.9 million it invested in Russian companies as possible.

The surrender legislation was also drafted Monday in the House by Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Center, and in the Senate by State Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia.

“We have a moral obligation to ensure that our investments in public funds do not inadvertently support those who engage in an unprovoked invasion of their democratically elected neighbors,” Benninghoff said in a memo to House members. .

In a memo to fellow senators, Street said the “aggressive and unlawful invasion of Ukraine demands action.”

The State Employees’ Retirement System, which reported nearly $36 billion in assets to start 2021, said the fund’s exposure to Russia-related investments amounts to a fraction of 1% . Its board of directors is scheduled to discuss the matter on Friday.

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On Thursday, Governor Tom Wolf sent letters to the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System and the Public Schools Employees Retirement System urging them to withdraw any public pension funds from Russia-related investments.

“As events in Ukraine continue to unfold, I am doing what I can to ensure that the Commonwealth disengages from business with Russia. Along with other leaders across the country, I have and will continue to strongly condemn the unprovoked and unjustified Russian military invasion of the independent country of Ukraine,” Governor Wolf said. “Although I pledge to sign any clean legislation that lands on my desk that requires divestment of public funds in Russian assets, like the concept Chief Benninghoff recently announced, we must act now where we can. As such, I strongly urge SERS and PSERS to take immediate action to remove any public pension funds from Russia-related investments. We must do what we can to end the suffering of the Ukrainian people. »

In 2010, lawmakers demanded divestment from Iran- and Sudan-related investments.

Dolores W. Simon