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The Wall Street Journal: Pension Funds to Divest Iran Investments

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A Curb on Calpers:
Iran-Linked Holdings
By SPENCER SWARTZ
October 17, 2007; Page C2

LONDON — Two big U.S. pension funds will be forced to sell large shareholdings in energy companies if those companies don’t stop doing business in Iran after a new California law took effect over the weekend, fund officials said in interviews.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or Calpers, and California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or CalSTRS, confirmed they will have to sell large holdings — amounting to about $3.4 billion in holdings between the two funds — if the companies they hold stock in don’t halt operations in Iran.
 
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sunday signed the California Public Divest from Iran Act, which bans the two funds from holding public-employee retirement funds in companies with operations in Iran.

Iran-Ban Trend

The California law follows other legislative measures gaining support in the U.S. to stop Western companies from doing business in Iran.

Calpers’s $259 billion in total assets makes it the largest public pension fund in the U.S.; CalSTRS has $169 billion in assets.

“We are supposed to identify the companies that meet the divestment criteria by June 30, 2008,” Calpers spokesman Brad Pacheco said, adding the fund has about $2 billion in holdings that could be affected. He declined to identify the companies.

Selling Gazprom?

A person familiar with Calpers’s holdings said companies that would be affected include Austria’s OMV AG, France’s Total SA, Italy’s Eni SpA, Russian natural-gas giant OAO Gazprom, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Norway’s StatoilHydro ASA.

Companies will have one year to take “substantial action” to stop their operations in Iran once they are notified by Calpers. If this doesn’t happen, the fund will then sell its holdings in a company, Mr. Pacheco said.

CalSTRS spokeswoman Sherry Reser said that at the end of May, the fund’s exposure under the California measure totaled $1.4 billion worth of investments in 13 global energy companies. She also declined to comment on which companies would be affected or on when CalSTRS would begin implementing the new policy.

Write to Spencer Swartz at [email protected]

 

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