CalPERS Responds to Killings in Sudan

September 20, 2005 ( - In response to mass killings in the Sudan's Darfur region, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) has backed a coalition with funds in other states to identify companies that do business Sudan.

In January, the public pension giant started looking into its investments in Sudan upon request of state representatives.   The fund announced in February that it had found no investments in the region, but only 11% of companies had responded to its survey at that time (See  CalPERS’ Consultant Recommends Investing In Philippines ).   Now CalPERS’ investment staff says they have targeted five corporations for what it calls “constructive engagement,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Chief Investment Officer Mark Anson says CalPERS plans to talk with executives at Royal Dutch/Shell Group and Frenchfirm Total, both oil companies, Siemens of Germany and Alcatel of France, both communications companies, and ABB Ltd., a Swiss technology group.   Four of the companies have said their business activities are unrelated to the Darfur violence, the Times reports.   Alcatel has not responded to CalPERS request for information.

Representative Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) has urged CalPERS to move quickly and play a pivotal role in the human rights issue, as it did with apartheid in South Africa in the late ’80’s, the Times said.   She notes that pension funds in Louisiana, Illinois (See  Illinois Measure Bars Sudan Investments ), Arizona, and New Jersey (See  New Jersey Assembly Bans State Investment in Sudan ), as well as Harvard and Stanford Universities, have pulled their investments from companies working in Sudan.

According to the Times, Lee cited one analysis that said as many as 44 major corporations, representing stock holdings of $9 billion in the portfolios of CalPERS and other California government pension plans, could be operating in Sudan.   She noted that tax and royalty payments made to the Sudanese government from these corporations could be used to buy arms and bankroll militia.

State Treasurer Phil Angelides, an ex-officio member of CalPERS’ board, said that California’s pension plans have a moral and a fiduciary duty to “ensure that our investment funds are in no part contributing to this crime against humanity.”