Maryland Inches Closer to Pension Fund Divestment in Sudan-linked Companies

March 29. 2007 ( - Both chambers of Maryland's General Assembly have passed legislation giving the state pension system the authority to dump its holdings in Sudan-linked firms, but that discretion only applies to "separate accounts" actively managed by the trustees and excludes commingled or passively managed assets, the Baltimore Sun reported.

The bills – HB 1336 and SB 543 – give the trustees a say in how and when the divestiture should occur, but bar the system from making any future investments in such firms, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The Senate unanimously passed the measure this week, following the House last week. Final passage of the bill requires that at least one chamber sign off on the other’s bill, which is expected before the General Assembly’s 2007 session ends April 9.

The legislation forces the State Retirement and Pension System’s board of trustees to divest holdings which were estimated at $203.7 million as of January 31 and include 14 foreign-based companies with ties to the Sudanese government (See
Maryland Lawmakers Push for Pension System Divestment of Sudan-Linked Investments ).

If the measure goes through, Maryland would join other states such as North CarolinaMaineNew Jersey , and the Colorado House (See Colorado House Passes Sudan Divestment Bill ) that have passed similar legislation to force their public pension systems to divest their holdings in Sudan-linked companies.

Illinois legislators’ efforts to protest the atrocities in Sudan by divestiture of pension holdings have been met with opposition in the court system (See Court Blocks Illinois Sudan Law ) The U.S. District Court for the District of Illinois ruled in February that a state law limiting pension investments and banking business with those companies was unconstitutional because it violated the federal government’s right to regulate foreign commerce.