Missouri Treasurer Blasts Overseas Pension Investments

May 26, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Missouri State Treasurer Sarah Steelman has launched a salvo at Missouri's state public retirement fund, demanding that the fund stop investing in companies supporting terrorism or help terrorist-supporting states.

Steelman said in a  Web site statement said that a recent check by her office found that Missouri’s retirement fund is directly invested in Arab Bank, an international financial organization currently under investigation by the FBI, the Treasury Department and Congress.

“Missouri’s retirement fund is now holding direct investments in overseas companies and banks that are alleged to have funding ties with terrorist activities and/or that are active in rogue states such as Iran,” said Steelman, a member of the board of the Missouri State Employees Retirement System (MOSERS). “I am demanding these investments be stopped now, and stand ready to fight for whatever policy changes are necessary to make certain such investments are never made again.”

However, MOSERS executive director Gary Findlay told the Kansas City Star that the fund’s investment in the bank is through its position in an index fund of emerging market companies managed by Merrill Lynch. The retirement program is not in a position to screen companies based on whether they are in line with US foreign policy, Findlay added. There are many companies in the index fund and the retirement fund’s proportional investment in Arab Bank comes to about $80,000, Findlay said.

“It’s an indirect holding; it’s not a direct holding,” he told the newspaper. “We have the option to either invest or not invest (in the index fund), but we don’t have the option of telling them which individual securities we want.”    The retirement fund, like most state employee retirement systems across the country, relies on the federal government for information about companies involved in terrorist activities or other crimes, Findlay asserted.

According to Steelman’s statement, MOSERS also is directly invested in a number of foreign companies that are engaged in development and investments in Iran. A partial listing of these companies uncovered by Steelman’s staff include 10 companies in China, Japan, Thailand and the Netherlands.