The legislature has already given State Treasurer Denise Nappier the power to divest from companies doing business with Sudan and Northern Ireland and this year it wants to add Iran to that list.
At a public hearing on a bill that would do just that Nappier told the General Administration and Elections Committee it will “bolster” and not compromise the state’s pension portfolio investments.
But Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford, wondered if divesting from Iran would hurt the pension portfolio’s investments in, say, large oil companies
“Absolutely not,” Nappier said. She said it won’t harm the state’s shareholder value because as its chief fiduciary officer she has a responsibility to the fund and divestment is always a last resort. She said they try to encourage companies doing business there to see if they can’t move their operations elsewhere.
Rep. Tim O’Brien, D-New Britain, said it’s not just how much money we can make, it’s a moral issue.
Dr. Leonard Eisenfeld couldn’t agree more. Eisenfeld’s son Matthew was studying at graduate school in Israel in 1996 when he boarded a bus and was killed by a suicide bomber.
Eisenfeld said the bombing was carried out by Hamas, and the bomber was trained, funded by Iran. “Iran substantially contributed to my son’s death,” Eisenfeld told the committee. This 1997 letter Eisenfeld received from the U.S. State Department details Iran’s financial support.
Eisenfeld said he supports the legislation because it would protect other families from terrorists that receive financial support from Iran.
Robert Fishman, executive director of the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut, said 22 other states have passed similar legislation dealing directly with the divestment in Iran.
Currently 29 states have laws dealing with the divestment in both Sudan and Iran.
But members of the committee wondered why the state is limiting the number of countries it will divest from. Some on the committee wondered if the state could develop a blanket policy that could apply to all countries engaged in supporting genocide or terrorism.
Shelagh McClure, of the state’s Treasurer’s Office, said the states can’t intrude too far into foreign policy. She said it allows states to divest from Sudan and Iran because there is federal legislation authorizing it.
When the state passed legislation allowing Nappier to divest from companies doing business in the Darfur region of Sudan, she said they engaged with 44 companies and as a result the state has divested from or prohibited investment in 13 companies. The value of the divestment stands at approximately $15.5 million.
She said the state affected the conduct of 31 companies doing business in Sudan and some have ceased doing business there, while others have increased their humanitarian activities.
With respect to the pension portfolio’s exposure from companies doing business in Iran, the state’s holdings are valued at approximately $310 million, which is just 4 percent of the state’s international portfolio.
A bill, which included similar language, passed the House last year, but time ran out before it could pass the Senate.