More Mutual Fund Companies Asked to Divest

September 5, 2007 ( - Activists pushing for divestment in companies with business links to Sudan have announced a few new targets that include big mutual fund companies like Vanguard Group Inc., American Funds, Franklin Resources Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., the Boston Globe reported.

If the mutual fund companies cave under pressure from the Save Darfur Coalition (SDC), they will follow the lead of Fidelity Investments, which has decided to sell shares in companies doing business in Sudan except for those shares in Beijing oil company PetroChina Ltd (See   Social(k) Calling for Retirement Plan Pressure on Fidelity ).

According to SDC, Franklin Resources Inc., has an estimated $1.7 billion invested in Sudan companies and JPMorgan Chase & Co., an estimated $1.6 billion.

PetroChina’s parent company, China National Petroleum Corp., has been pinned as one of the Sudanese government’s weightiest investors.

The companies include some of the world’s largest mutual fund complexes, including Vanguard Group Inc. of Pennsylvania and the American Funds of California. In addition, activists say they still aim to pressure Fidelity of Boston, which, in May, disclosed it had sold many shares in PetroChina Co. Ltd., but said the sales were not a coordinated response to the criticism.

Fidelity still owned about $608 million in PetroChina as of August 1 through various U.S. and international funds, according to the news report.

The company was also listed by Idaho legislators as one of the six companies that Idaho would have to sell shares in if divestment legislation passed in the state (See Idaho’s Pension System Refuses to Divest $23M in Sudan-Linked Cos.). PetroChina says it doesn’t have operations in Sudan, but groups pushing for divestment have targeted the company as a way to put economic pressure on China Petroleum.

The dumping of these shares by mutual fund companies could also affect pension plans, which are grappling with how to reconcile their fiduciary obligations to get the best returns with social investing principles (See Doing the Right Thing?  and  Public Pension Fund Divestment: A Fiduciary Risk? ).