NH Funds Consider Suing Governor over Sudan Divestment Mandate

August 12, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - New Hampshire pension officials who had asked Governor John Lynch to veto a measure requiring the state's two pension funds to divest assets relating to Sudan are considering legal action because Lynch refused.

According to the Associated Press, Concord lawyer Chuck Douglas, executive director of the New Hampshire Judicial Retirement Plan, says divesting will cost money that otherwise would not be spent which conflicts with the fund’s fiduciary duty to look out for the interests of beneficiaries and avoid outside influences as required in the state constitution and state law.

The divestment measure was signed into law last month (See NH Retirement Systems Must Divest Sudan-related Holdings ).

The New Hampshire Retirement System for non-court employees’ Executive Director Constance Donovan said lawyers are studying the legal issues while the system prepares to comply with the law, the AP said.

Similar measures in other states have faced opposition from those saying pension funds should not get into politics and should invest for the sole purpose of generating good returns (SeeID Governor Opposes Pension Fund's Sudan Divestmentand TX Gov's Iran Divestment Plan Encounters Political Headwinds ).

In July 2007, the board that manages Idaho's public pension funds said it will keep its investments in six companies that do business with Sudan, saying it chooses investments based on financial success, not politics (See Idaho's Pension System Refuses to Divest $23M in Sudan-Linked Cos.).

In December, Texas Teacher Retirement System trustees approved an Iran/Sudan-linked divestiture policy that calls for dropping investments only if "comparable investments offering similar quality, return and safety are available." (SeeTexas Fund Divestiture Policy Includes Caveat).

In spite of the conflict, President Bush in January signed legislation that makes it easier for mutual funds and private pension funds to sell their investments in companies doing business with Sudan (See Bush Signs Sudan Divestment Bill into Law).