MOSERS Ups Ante on Terrorism Investments

July 22, 2005 ( - Missouri state pension officials have instituted terrorism screening on its direct investments, either by its staff or an outside money manager, planning to dump investments the screening determines are problematic.

The move by the Missouri State Employees’ Retirement System (MOSERS) was a nod to Missouri Treasurer Sarah Steelman who first raised concerns in May that the state potentially backs companies with terrorist ties, according to an Associated Press report (See  Missouri Treasurer Blasts Overseas Pension Investments ). The MOSERS board also adopted a change that would consult a federal list of people and groups under government sanctions, though the treasurer’s office said that wouldn’t do much because investments with such groups already are prohibited by law.

“This is a much, much better approach than existing policy,” Steelman told the Associated Press. “It’s proactive, and it doesn’t rely on the federal government. We’re making our own decisions about what’s best for our pension fund.”

But other MOSERS board members had expressed reservations, saying it’s hard to know what companies’ actions are really hurting or helping American interests. They also said ensuring decisions are made on a sound financial basis should be the top priority to protect retirees’ earnings.

The retirement system invests about $6 billion overall, about 20% of which is in foreign investments.

The previous policy had been to annually check a list, if provided by the federal government, of companies with terrorist ties. But Steelman, a Republican, said the board should do more, especially since the state has never received that list.