NewsAnalysis: TIAA-CREF Divests from Genocide

This week’s NewsAnalysis from the Sea Change Radio Headlines Anchor, Tania Haldar Hart:

So, what’s the connection between investing and genocide in the first place??  I’m no expert on the ethics of investing but I was intrigued by recent news that TIAA-CREF, the huge retirement fund for teachers and academics, divested its holdings in companies considered complicit with genocide.  Following up on its March 2009 commitment, TIAA-CREF sold all of its holdings in four Asian state-owned oil companies. Its research showed continued complicity in Sudanese genocide at PetroChina, CNPC Hong Kong, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and Sinopec. Financial analysis also showed that divestment would have an insignificant impact on the performance of retirees’ portfolios.

Investors Against Genocide is a non-profit which advocates for investors to divest shares in companies linked to genocide.  IAG successfully campaigned to convince TIAA-CREF to set an example, leading the way to genocide-free investing. The intention is to sever the ties between genocidal regimes and mutual fund portfolios with the goal of drying up the streams of funding that support this abuse of basic human rights.

IAG’s intentions are clear but how realistic are the ultimate goals that the Government of Sudan end its deadly genocide in Darfur and that investment firms avoid investing in genocide? How much of a difference can divestment really make in upholding humanitarian causes??

Share your thoughts in the comments section below, or on our Facebook fan page.

For the Sea Change NewsAnalysis, I’m Tania Haldar Hart.

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2 Responses to “NewsAnalysis: TIAA-CREF Divests from Genocide”

  1. Tony Hay says:

    The very public divestment from WalMart by Norges Bank Investment Management undoubtedly helped change the firm’s environmental and human rights policies to the point where they are now heralded as a leader. There are other concrete examples of divestment having a positive impact on a firm’s practices. Generally, however, it is difficult for investors (even huge investors such as TIAA-CREF) to influence any corporation unless that corporation cares about their public image. Does PetroChina care that TIAA-CREF sold their stock? Probably not, because for every seller of their stock there is a buyer (someone bought TIAA-CREF’s $60m holdings). Perhaps, however, the beneficiaries of TIAA-CREF’s investment programs might be happier to invest that $60m in another stock.

  2. Bill Baue says:

    Thanks for pointing out the Walmart example, Tony.

    The question is not only if TIAA-CREF’s divestment changes PetroChina, but more importantly, whether it changes Sudan.

    I just met with Bob Massie yesterday and he gave me a copy of his book Loosing the Chains, which traces the history of apartheid South Africa, and describes its interlinking history with the US. The South Africa divestment movement had a huge role in the end of apartheid. (Bob pointed out that Tim Smith, now of Walden Asset Management, sent Stephen Biko materials from the Black Power movement in the US, which helped seed a black empowerment movement in SA.)

    So the question is, could divestment have the same impact on Sudan? The relationship between China and Sudan seems as complex and intertwined (in different ways of course) as the US-South Africa ties.

    It will be interesting to continue watching the Sudan divestment movement.

    Best,
    Bill