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CalPERS divesting from companies operating in Iran, Sudan

May 16, 2011 |  4:44 pm

The country's largest public pension fund is selling all its stock in companies that continue to operate in Iran and Sudan.

The California Public Employees' Retirement System announced Monday that it is fully complying with state divestment laws passed in 2006 and 2007.

Iran and Sudan are subject to U.S. economic sanctions. Iran has been identified as a state sponsor of terrorism, and Sudan has been cited for genocidal acts against the inhabitants of the Darfur region.

Calperslogo CalPERS said it would sell approximately $160 million in stock in eight companies operating in the energy and other sensitive economic sectors of the two nations. At one point in the last decade, the retirement fund owned more than $2 billion worth of shares in 47 companies that did business in Iran and Sudan. Those shares have been gradually removed from the fund's portfolio.

CalPERS declined to name the eight companies, saying it did not want to reduce the stocks' value before selling.

"The cost of continuing to hold the stock of these eight companies is greater than the value of divesting them," CalPERS board President Rob Feckner said. "Consistent with our fiduciary duty as trustees, we're taking this step in the best interest of the fund."

CalPERS' decision was greeted with satisfaction by state Sen. Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon), the author of a bill pending in the Legislature that would force CalPERS and its sister pension fund, the California State Teachers' Retirement System, to sell its Iran- and Sudan-related holdings.

"For too long, CalPERS and CalSTRS have helped fund a violent regime in Iran," Anderson said."Money is the mother's milk of terrorism."

Anderson said he intends to keep moving his bill, SB 903, to make sure that any divestment action is permanent.

-- Marc Lifsher