Jay Klawon, a member of the Montana Board of Investments, proposed the resolution to unload some of its holdings in French firms, according to news reports. Montana will be selling most of its French holdings in banking giant Societe Generale; Air Liquide, which sells industrial gas; carmaker Peugeot Citroen and oil company Total Fina Elf. As of January 31, Montana had $393 million of its $4.8 billion invested in foreign companies.
It is apparently the first stock market protest linked to the complex international politics and diplomacy that raged furiously before the first Coalition bombs fell on Baghdad.
“We couldn’t figure out why France would be so adamant in keeping a murderous dictator in office,” Klawon told the Gazette. “The only thing we could surmise is perhaps French companies have been doing business with Iraq against UN sanctions.” The board approved the Klawon resolution by a five to four vote.
If there were illegal dealings by the French, Klawon said that would add to local investment risk. “If we were helping French companies that were indirectly contributing to terrorism, what would the people of Montana think?” he said. Officials were also concerned about the effects of a possible consumer backlash against the French.
Since the French government’s veto threat against a United Nations resolution sanctioning military action in Iraq, various groups around the country have dumped French wine. The House of Representatives, for its part, relabeled French fries Freedom fries.
Board member Dennis Beams opposed the stock sale, arguing that the vote was more of a political decision than an investment move.