House Bill Sanctions Iran Divestments

October 15, 2009 ( - In the wake of a Congressional bill giving state and local governments authority to divest assets or bar investment in Sudan-connected companies, a new measure approved by the U.S. House Thursday covers the same ground for Iran.

A House Financial Services Committee news release said H.R. 1327, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2009, was passed 414 to 6. Authoring the bill was U.S. Representative Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts), the panel’s chairman. Frank’s committee approved the bill in April (see House Committee Approves Iran Divestment Measure ).

H .R . 1327 also includes “safe harbor” provisions for private asset managers and private pension fund managers who decide to cut ties with companies that have over $20 million of investments in Iran’s energy sector, so that they will not be vulnerable to any litigation or action brought by shareholders or regulatory agencies, the news release said.

“This bill makes it very clear that Americans who are deeply concerned about the prospect of an Iranian nuclear power and other aspects of Iranian governance are able to act on those concerns,” Frank said in the statement. “In particular, it says that no one in this country ought to involuntarily have his or her money put to the support of the Iranian economy.”

The legislation allows divestment or investment prohibitions in companies that:

  • invest $20 million or more in the energy sector in Iran;
  • provide oil or liquefied natural gas tankers or products used to construct or maintain oil or natural gas pipelines in Iran; or
  • extend $20 million or more in credit to be used for investment in the energy sector in Iran.

According to the announcement, because some state laws that touch upon international relations have been hit with constitutional challenges, “the bill provides explicit federal consent and authorization for States to enact divestment measures in order to remove any doubt as to the constitutionality of those measures.”

Nineteen states, as well as the District of Columbia, have already passed legislation or adopted policies to divest their pension funds from foreign companies doing business with Iran.