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Maryland expands Iran, Sudan divestment list

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BALTIMORE (Baltimore Jewish Times) — Maryland’s state pension system has added 19 international companies in which it can no longer buy securities funds because they have businesses operating in Iran and Sudan.

The expansion brings to 69 the number of companies that are no longer eligible for investment from the state Retirement and Pension System. Its board of trustees at its March 15 meeting directed managers of the eligible accounts to be notified of the move.

The information was delivered March 31 to the state Senate Budget and Taxation and the House Appropriations Committees, as well as the Joint Committee on Pensions.

Last October, the pension system informed the lawmakers that 50 companies in the system would be dumped.

The system administers death, disability and retirement benefits for more than 350,000 active and former state employees, teachers, state police, judges, law enforcement officers, correctional officers and legislators.

As of Feb. 28, it had approximately $37 billion in assets, according to Michael Golden, director of external affairs for the Maryland state pension system.

In 2008, the state’s General Assembly passed its Iran divestment bill; the previous year, the body passed a Sudan divestment bill. Both of the bills were signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley and are now jointly administered as the Divestiture From Iran and Sudan Act.

They require a semiannual report to the appropriate legislators. The state, however, can divest only from companies specifically doing business with Iran and Sudan’s energy sector after those operations have been sent a letter informing them of the violation, giving them a time frame to change their business practice, and when the total divestment does not affect more than one-half of 1 percent of the MSRPS’s assets.

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has threatened “to wipe Israel off the map,” and the country is openly pursuing nuclear power while refusing international inspections. Analysts widely believe that Iran is developing a clandestine nuclear weapons program.

Sudan’s leaders are accused of terrorizing the population in the nation’s Darfur region.
 

 
 
 

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