The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

April 15, 2013
CalPERS opposes gun manufacturer-divestment bill

RB_Guns.JPGCalPERS' Investment Committee sent a message to lawmakers this morning that the fund opposes a bill requiring it dump its gun manufacturing holdings unless the weapons are made for U.S. military purposes only.

Assembly Bill 761, written by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, comes after CalPERS decided earlier this year to divest about $5 million in gun investments.

"This bill goes well beyond that action," CalPERS analyst Danny Brown told the board this morning.

Of the 11 members present for the vote, 10 opposed the bill. The lone abstention came from the California Department of Human Resources, whose representative voted on behalf of CalHR Director Julie Chapman.

Dickinson's measure is the latest in a long line of bills seeking to limit the investment options of public pension funds.

California has passed laws banning investments in South Africa, Sudan and Iran, nations known for violating human rights or that were considered a threat to national security. Other measures have failed, mostly with CalPERS' opposition out of concern those such laws step on the fund's fiduciary duty to invest in the benefit of its members.

Not that the fund's board, which is filled with elected members, politicians or their appointees, is above investment politics.

Following last December's school shootings in Newtown, Conn., state treasurer and CalPERS board member Bill Lockyer called for CalPERS and the state teachers retirement fund, CalSTRS to review their investments in assault weapons manufacturers that make weapons that are illegal in California.

CalSTRS, which had holdings in the firm that made the gun used in the Connecticut killings, also divested. CalPERS eventually approved divestiture of direct investments in two companies, or .00002 percent of its holdings.

CalPERS talked to Dickinson about bringing his measure in line with the board's self-imposed policy, but "based on conversations with the author and his staff, it does not appear that they wish to model their bill after that action," said Brown, the CalPERS analyst. So the staff recommended the board opposed the measure.

CalPERS administers the pensions of 1.6 million current and retired government employees and their beneficiaries with $259 billion in assets.

PHOTO CREDIT: Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee file, 2012

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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