HARTFORD, CT — The state of Connecticut has $16.5 million or 0.05 percent of its six pension funds and nine trust funds invested in five companies that manufacture guns.
Questions about how much the state can do to end the proliferation of guns have been raised again following the Parkland, Florida shooting. Since the shooting three weeks ago that claimed 17 lives, companies including Dick’s Sporting Goods announced they will no longer sell assault rifles and Walmart said it would no longer sell firearms to anyone under the age of 21.
In addition, dozens of other companies like Delta stopped giving NRA members discounts, and REI halted orders from Vista Outdoor after the company failed to issue a statement following the mass shooting in Florida. Individuals are also looking at their own retirement investments and seeing what they can do to cut any ties they have to the gun industry.
Sen. Gayle Slossberg recently asked state Treasurer Denise Nappier to detail what the state is doing with its investments in the six state pension funds and nine state trust funds that comprise the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds.
“Should the proliferation of gun violence persist, and further compromise the safety of our young people, our communities and our long-term shareholder value, following a period of stepped up shareholder activism I will proceed to divest or not make further investments in gun companies as the most prudent course of action,” Nappier said last week.
Slossberg wanted to know when or if Nappier would be able to divest.
“I am charged with making investment decisions in the best interests of the beneficiaries that depend on these assets for retirement,” Nappier said. “Fiduciary duty requires that I take into account not only the appropriate balance between risk and return, but also the long-term viability of the investment itself.”
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things to consider.
“Regarding the process of divestment, as principal fiduciary of the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds (CRPTF), I have the authority to divest following a period of engagement with our portfolio companies, consistent with the State’s divestment laws,” Nappier wrote in the letter to Slossberg. “In the meantime, I am in the process of fortifying our efforts in the corporate boardrooms of our portfolio companies that manufacture guns, and pursuing aggressively their adoption of the Sandy Hook Principles — a set of measures aimed at curbing gun violence, keeping guns out of the hands of children and those with mental health problems, and supporting universal, federal background checks.”
In 2012 following the Sandy Hook massacre, Nappier’s office surveyed its investments in companies that manufacture and distribute guns and asked them to take reasonable steps to avoid misuse of firearms.
That resulted in “constructive discussions with numerous companies, including Sears and Amazon, sellers of firearms accessories, that resulted in those companies taking steps to alter their business operations to help reduce gun violence and promote safety,” Nappier said. “In addition, Amazon, Dicks’ Sporting Goods, and Wal-Mart indicated that their business practices were compatible with the Sandy Hook Principles.”
Back in 2012 the state owned shares of Alliant Techsystems, an aerospace and defense company that supplies ammunition and related accessories to law enforcement agencies and commercial customers.
The state filed a resolution with Alliant calling for adoption of the Sandy Hook Principles, but it garnered less than nine percent of shareholder votes.
“Despite that failure, we maintained our ownership, and in 2017 we filed a resolution with its spin-off, Vista Outdoor, seeking declassification of the board,” Nappier wrote. “Our declassification resolution garnered 92 percent of the votes.”
The declassification requires the board of directors to stand for election annually.
Nappier said that the governance measure will lead to greater accountability.
The state pension fund investments are as follows:
• CIE Financiere Richemont SA—79,501 shares valued at $7.19 million
• Daicel Corporation—146,400 shares valued at $1.65 million
• Olin Corporation—26,550 shared valued at $879,071 and fixed income valued at $915,255
• Orbital ATK Inc.— 7,700 shares valued at $1.02 million and fixed income valued at $784,437
• Vista Outdoor, Inc.— 221,261 shares valued at $4.04 million