Maryland Lawmakers Push for Pension System Divestment of Sudan-Linked Investments

March 9, 2007 ( - A group of Maryland lawmakers and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown are pushing for the legislature to pass a measure that would force the state's $36 billion pension system to dump its holdings in companies doing business with Sudan and also bar future Sudan-related investments.

As of January 31, the system had $203.7 million in funds and accounts that hold securities invested in 14 foreign-based companies with business ties to the Sudanese government.

If the legislators get their way, Maryland would join other states such as North Carolina, Maine and New Jersey, who have already passed similar measures in a protest effort.

In particular, the 2007 Darfur Protection Act gives Maryland pension system managers the permission to ask portfolio managers whether the investments have any ties to the Sudanese government or to companies that do business with the government, at which point the managers must pull those investments, according to a Washington Post report. .

Colorado House legislators passed at the end of February a measure that is said to be one of the more aggressive pieces of Sudan legislation. The bill would require Colorado’s pension funds to maintain a list of those companies that either directly or indirectly help the Sudanese government commit genocide. After an expedited engagement period, the pension funds would be required to divest from those companies that do not change their business practices in Sudan and would be prohibited from future investment in offending companies until the reported Sudanese¬†atrocities cease (See Colorado House Passes Sudan Divestment Bill ).

The success of such legislation has varied, with some of the measures being battled out in the court system. A federal court in Illinois recently threw out a 2005 state law that limited pension investments and state banking business with companies linked to Sudan, ruling that it overstepped the federal right to regulate foreign commerce (See Court Block Illinois Sudan Law ).