Senators Anthony J. Portantino and Scott Wilk announced the decision of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) to restrict the number of investments and holdings they hold in the Republic of Turkey, Asbarez reports.
CalPERS is the largest public defined benefit pension in the United States.
“California continues to take important and historic steps to end the practice of divestment from countries that violate human rights principles,” said Senator Portantino. âThis week CalPERS took important and proactive steps and did the right thing by initiating the process of eliminating their holdings in Turkey. I am grateful to the community and all activists for their tireless efforts and tenacity in advancing divestment and to the CalPERS Board of Directors for responding to our collective call.
The CalPERS action has followed a similar path taken by the State Teachers’ Pension System (CalSTRS). Senator Portantino and representatives from Glendale Community College, Glendale Unified School District and the Armenian-American community announced the CalSTRS action on June 16 at a press conference on Artsakh Avenue. During the event, Senator Portantino challenged CalPERS to follow CalSTRS and do the right thing. Today’s announcement highlights CalPERS ‘work to achieve this.
At the start of the legislative session, Senators Portantino and Wilk introduced SB 457 to demand that the CalPERS and CalSTRS boards of directors allow school districts and cities to opt out of investment vehicles issued or held by the Republic of Turkey. The idea for the bill came from Glendale City Council member Ardy Kassakhian, who acknowledged the injustice of Glendale’s large public workforce whose hard-earned wages are invested in Turkey.
SB 457 received unanimous support in the Senate and helped advance Turkey’s divestment efforts by encouraging CalPERS and CalSTRS to take bold action. Since the introduction of the bill, the issue of Turkish divestment has become a priority for CalPERS and CalSTRS. This week, CalPERS responded to the call to restrict its holdings in the Republic of Turkey and took the necessary steps to move towards finalizing the divestiture.
“In line with US policy rejecting the ongoing Armenian Genocide denial campaign in Turkey, CalPERS ‘decision to divest itself from Turkish government investments is a bold move and based on principles we have long stood for,” said the President. President of the Armenian National Committee of the America-West region, Nora Hovsepian. “We are grateful to Senator Anthony Portantino for leading this effort and look forward to further similar successes as the walls of denial continue to crumble.”
The state of California has a long history of disengaging from countries that violate human rights. In 1986, Governor George Deukmejian condemned South Africa’s apartheid policy by signing the California Surrender Act, designed to pressure the government to end its system of racial segregation. In 2008, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill on divestment from Sudan due to the ongoing genocide in Darfur. Students at the University of California managed to pressure UC to withdraw from Turkey in 2017.
âWe are delighted that CalPERS management has made this decision to be more socially responsible and to take a stand against governments that violate human rights,â said Talin Yacoubian, UGAB community affairs representative. âThe action taken by CalPERS, and earlier this year by CalSTRS, to eliminate their investments in Turkey is a strong stand against the genocidal government of Turkey. We thank the honorable senator for his unwavering commitment to what is right.
In May, CalSTRS announced that it was taking several steps to restrict its holdings in Turkey. They imposed restrictions on three Turkish state-owned banks, which prevented them from being included in the CalSTRS portfolio. In addition, they asked external managers who have Turkish public entities in their portfolios to reassess each of these investments to assess their compliance with CalSTRS environmental, social and governance (ESG) policy – a risk assessment that defines 25 risks. factors managers should consider when investing assets on behalf of CalSTRS. Finally, CalSTRS announced that it is conducting an additional risk assessment of a Turkish-issued treasury that is currently the only Turkish government-issued or controlled investment that they hold internally.
CalPERS announced that it has made an active investment strategy decision to reduce its overall investment exposure. The policy change includes the removal of several countries considered intangible and the most operationally difficult. The result is a substantial reduction in the currency and equity exposure of securities issued by Turkey between March 31, 2021 and June 30, 2021. CalPERS expects that this number will continue to decline and their holdings in Turkey will be fully eliminated in a very near future. .
âThis is a historic and important action by CalPERS. Turkey should not benefit from the salaries of Armenian-American public employees in California, âsaid Senator Wilk. “I am grateful to both CalSTRS and CalPERS for responding to our efforts and to the Armenian-American community who have joined us in this successful effort.”
CalSTRS and CalPERS are the two major California pension funds that have had portfolio interests with Turkey. Founded in 1913, CalSTRS is the world’s largest educator-only pension fund and the second-largest pension fund in the United States, with 975,000 members and beneficiaries. The market value of the CalSTRS investment portfolio was approximately $ 306.7 billion as of May 31, 2021. CalPERS, the largest public defined benefit pension plan in the country, serves more than two million members in their pension system. retirement and health program benefits to over 1.5 million members and their families. Founded in 1932, CalPERS had $ 392.5 billion in assets at the end of fiscal 2020.