News Column

Iran: Broader implications must be considered

February 18, 2014

Tim Carpenter; Tim Carpenter timothy.carpenter@cjonline.com

The nuclear targeting of Israel by the terrorist-sponsoring government of Iran ought to trigger divestiture by the Kansas public pension system from companies with Iranian oil industry investment greater than $20 million, a House legislator said Monday.

Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe, raised the call for deletion from the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System's portfolio of major petroleum investment in the economy of Iran as long as that nation remained a nuclear or terrorist rival to Israel.

"There is no other nation that is as violent of a threat to the U.S. and our interests than Iran," he told the House Pensions and Benefits Committee. "This is significant. This is something I care very much about."

The committee took no action on the Iran divestment legislation, which is folded into House Bill 2383, nor a separate measure that would lift a divestiture mandate applied to KPERS regarding Sudan. The U.S. government's list of state sponsors of terrorism contains the countries of Iran, Cuba, Sudan and Syria.

Alan Conroy, executive director of the state pension system, said divestment mandates from the Legislature were tricky to implement because multinational corporations had long tentacles throughout the world.

KPERS stays away from sovereign debt and state-owned companies in unstable countries, he said, but cleansing the retirement system's $4.5 billion international portfolio of any feature of British Petroleum or some other conglomerate might be challenging and could result in loss of investment return.

He said the primary mission of KPERS' trustees was to work for benefit of members -- not delve into foreign policy best left to the federal government.

"The trustees have a fiduciary responsibility," Conroy said. "They have only one charge, and that's what's best for the members."

Rep. John Edmonds, R-Great Bend, said there might be times when KPERS' trustees ought to consider broader implications of their actions beyond the bottom line of the retirement system.

"We know some things are wrong," Edmonds said. "Things going on in Iran are wrong."


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Source: Topeka Capital Journal (KS)


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