NYC Pension Chief Demands Corp. Terror Review

February 10, 2003 ( - New York City's pension fund chief has demanded that three major US corporations take a long, hard look at the extent of their operations in "terror-linked" countries such as Iran and Syria.

City Comptroller William Thompson said he filed shareholder resolutions asking for board reviews of such investments at General Electric Co., Halliburton Co., and ConocoPhillips to make certain shareholder value was not be harmed, according to a Reuters report. The $31-billion pension funds for New York City’s police and firefighters sponsored the resolutions.

“If we are trying to eradicate terrorism, we must ensure that companies in our portfolio are not using offshore subsidiaries to legally evade United States sanctions against terror-sponsoring countries,” Thompson said in a statement.

Thompson accused the firms of setting up offshore and United Kingdom subsidiaries to sidestep US laws against doing business with Iran and Syria — countries that Washington says sponsor terrorism. Shareholder value is threatened by possible negative publicity, public protests, and a loss of consumer confidence, he said.

Five New York City pension funds, including the fire and police retirement systems, own $23 million in Halliburton securities, a $31 million investment in ConocoPhillips and $951 million in holdings of General Electric, the Reuters story said.

Company Response

In response, GE spokesman Gary Sheffer told Reuters: “We do a very modest amount of business in Iran and everything we do is fully compliant with US laws.” GE provides oil and gas services in Iran and sells medical diagnostic equipment in the country.

Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall said the activities of Halliburton’s subsidiary in Iran are “very limited” and staffed by non-US personnel. “The company believes the operations of these subsidiaries is compliant with US laws,” Hall told Reuters.