New Jersey Assembly Bans State Investment in Sudan

January 28, 2005 ( - The New Jersey Assembly has approved legislation that would ban state public pension funds from investing in companies that do business in Sudan.

Also jumping in the fray was the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), which started looking into its investments following a request from state representatives.

Citing the nation’s failure to prevent human rights abuses and genocide, the New Jersey State Assembly has voted through the rule – A. 3482 – that would require the Division of Investment in the New Jersey Treasury Department to divest all public holdings from companies, banks, and financial institutions with activities in or ties to the African nation, according to the Associated Press. The legislation gives a three-year window for public funds to redeem, divest, or withdraw funds from the country.

This is not the first move by state lawmakers to ban investments in certain countries. Like many institutions, New Jersey prohibited investment in apartheid-era South Africa in the 1980s.
“New Jersey has a moral obligation to respond to the slaughter, mistreatment, and human rights injustices in the Sudan,” Assemblyman William Payne, one of four prime sponsors of the measure, said in a statement, according to the AP. “As people of conscience we owe it to ourselves and to the innocent victims in Darfur to make it clear that this kind of criminal action, this genocide, will not take place on our dime.”

The bill was passed by an overwhelming vote of 76-1; however, it still faces approval by the state Senate.

Pension giant CalPERS has also started looking into such a move, with the California state public employees’ pension fund asking all of the companies and fund managers it is invested in to reveal if they do business with the Sudanese government, according to CalPERS spokesman Brad Pacheco. As of Wednesday afternoon, Pacheco didn’t know how many of those companies had responded or how much money CalPERS has invested in Sudan, according to the Contra Costa Times.

It is rare, however, for the pension fund to drop investments to influence the behavior of countries or companies, according to the newspaper, with the only divestment rules in place at the fund in the past being focused on tobacco, and South Africa.