Ohio PERS May Comply With Gov.’s Request to Drop Iran Investments

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich recently asked the state’s Public Employees’ Retirement System to divest from companies doing business with Iran.

The pension fund initially took a hard line against the idea; a spokesperson said that divesting for political purposes wasn’t a responsible way to use the System’s money – even if PERS had less than $13 million currently invested in Iran-related investments.

But a letter released yesterday by the System’s executive director indicates that the pension fund is willing to work with the governor, but will continue to keep its fiduciary duty in mind.

More from the Columbus Dispatch:

The head of Ohio’s largest pension system expressed willingness to work with Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s request to divest from companies doing business with Iran, although she noted such action must be taken with the best interests of a million current and past public employees as a priority.

“We appreciate your letter that recognizes our policy and look forward to working with you,” said Karen Carraher, executive director of the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, in a letter made available to The Dispatch on Tuesday night.

Earlier, a PERS spokeswoman said the fund could not comply with requests to manipulate the investment of its $90 billion-plus in assets.

“No matter how worthwhile the purpose, such actions set a dangerous precedent of using the system’s money to achieve political or social agendas,” said Julie Graham-Price, the retirement system’s communication manager.

[…]

While the responses had contrasting tones, both Carraher and Graham-Price noted that a 2007 PERS board policy – reaffirmed this year – calls for investment to be pulled from companies doing business in Iran or the Sudan. However, the policy includes an important qualifier noting the fund’s fiduciary responsibility to present and past government workers: Such divestment can take place only “when comparable investments offering similar quality, return and safety are available.”

By mid-2015, the pension fund had just $12.6 million tied up with a Russian oil and gas company that has a subsidiary operating in Iran, Carraher said.

Read the executive director’s full letter here.

 

Photo by Michael Vadon via Flickr CC License

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