Boston- Yesterday, June 26, 2007, the Senate passed legislation directing the $50 billion state pension fund to withdraw its investments in companies conducting business in or with Sudan. The legislative intent is to apply financial pressure on the Sudanese government to put an end to genocide in the country’s Darfur region.
“I am proud to be a member of the legislative body that spoke in a loud, unified voice against the atrocities occurring in Sudan,” stated Downing. “By withdrawing investments from targeted businesses, we send a clear and palpable message that Sudan’s blatant inaction to the wide-spread genocide is unconscionable. It is my hope that other states and pension boards see divestment as a real and viable way to take action.”
Downing has played a key role in this legislation, as both a co-sponsor and as the Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Service, to which this bill was assigned.
Within 12 months, the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Board (PRIM) must divest roughly $69 million in Sudanese assets. This represents investments in six companies or approximately 0.15% of PRIM’s total holdings. In addition, PRIM has a significant time frame to divest from these companies and also has the option to opt-out of divesting from a company if it will negatively impact investment returns.
This is a targeted divestment plan requiring the state to divest from any company conducting business in Sudan that substantially benefits the central government, provides little benefit to Sudanese citizens, and which has failed to address ways they indirectly facilitate the practice of genocide in Sudan. This legislation does not bar investments from companies who conduct humanitarian outreach to victims of genocide.
This bill now goes before the House of Representatives for consideration.