Brown Calls on pension funds to divest from Iran

Kathy Woods Feb. 9, 2010, 1:14am

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-California Attorney General Jerry Brown on Monday criticized the state's largest pension funds for continuing to invest in companies in Iran.

Brown, a Democrat and presumptive gubernatorial candidate, directed his comments at the California Public Employees' Retirement System, known as CalPERS, and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, referred to as CalSTRS.

He said the two funds are breaking a 2007 state law that required CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest of companies doing business in the defense, nuclear, petroleum and natural gas industries in Iran and to divest from any company that fails to cease or limit operations in the Islamic Republic.

"CalPERS and CalSTRS need to honor the state law requiring them to divest from companies doing business in Iran," Brown said. "It's time for our public pension funds to show some leadership and stop supporting companies that do business with a tyrannical regime."

Brown said the law was enacted because it is "unconscionable for this state to invest in foreign companies with business activities benefiting foreign states such as Iran that commit egregious violations of human rights and sponsor terrorism."

In a statement, Brown's office said it sent letters to Anne Stausboll, chief executive officer of CalPERS and to CalSTRS CEO Jack Ehnes, telling them that they are in violation of state law because their annual reports fail to explain why they are still investing in companies that do business in Iran.

CalPERS, the largest public pension fund in the nation, has more than 1.6 million members and more than $200 billion in assets. CalSTRS has 833,000 members and more than $130 billion in assets.

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