A bill making its way through the Iowa legislature calls for withdrawing state investments in companies doing business with Iran.
According to an analysis from the Legislative Services Agency, two pension funds for government workers in Iowa have about $15 million invested in companies linked in some way to Iran. Donna Mueller, C.E.O. of the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System — called IPERS, says about half-a-percent of her system’s entire portfolio is invested in companies with interests in Iran.
“There are a number of different states that have similar legislation. Each one’s a little bit different so you look at one state’s list. It has, maybe, 19 companies. Another one has 36 companies,” Mueller says. “Some of have big companies such as Shell Oil. Some don’t, so it’s hard to really determine exactly, but it’s a very small percentage.”
Mueller says managers at IPERS don’t make investment decisions based on the social values of a company, and leave it up to legislators to make those kind of directives. For example, IPERS managers don’t refuse to invest in a company like Time Warner because some Time Warner music or videos has raised eyebrows.
“That’s not to say that our individual managers aren’t looking at the economic viability of companies and what they’re engaged in,” she says.
In the 1980s the State of Iowa joined other states and nations in barring investments in companies connected to South Africa, which was being run by a whites-only government at the time. In the past decade Iowa legislators have voted to forbid state investment in companies doing business in the Sudan. Senator Jack Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg, says he looks at this latest proposal from the perspective of a Korean War veteran.
“We’ve known that at least 18 Iowans have been killed in Iraq with weaponry that was either made in Iran or the technology was provided in Iran,” Kibbie says.
Senator Wally Horn, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, warns there will be penalties to withdraw some of these investments. “When you force them to sell that product, what if they loose a half a million, a million, $500 million?” Horn asks.
The Iowa House has voted overwhelmingly to withdraw state investments from Iran-connected companies by July 1, 2010. The Senate State Government Committee has voted to give state investment managers ’til March 1, 2012 to pull those investments. The proposal must next be examined by the full Senate.