Mass. to divest Russian holdings from pension fund | News
BOSTON — Massachusetts is moving to strip the state’s retirement fund of Russian-tied stocks and other holdings in response to its 6-week-old war in Ukraine.
Gov. Charlie Baker signed a $1.6 billion supplemental budget bill on Friday that calls for divesting the pension fund of an estimated $140 million in investments tied to the country. The bill, which includes money for COVID-19 vaccines, testing and rental assistance, was approved by the Legislature with bipartisan support.
Lawmakers say pulling out those investments shows solidarity with the Ukrainian people’s fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war.
“This is the least we can do,” said Rep. Lenny Mirra, R-Georgetown, who supported the measure. “Putin is a thug and a bully and we need to do whatever we can to stand up to him. I wish more states would take this step.”
Rep. Paul Tucker, D-Salem, said he is “horrified” by the nightly images of Russia’s brutal war against a neighboring country and also wanted to send a message.
“People may look at this and say, ‘Well, this is just one state,’ but I think it really shows solidarity that we are behind the Ukrainian people,” Tucker said. “This is also a way of signaling our disapproval of what Russia is doing.”
Treasurer Deb Goldberg, whose office oversees the pension fund, said the nearly $104 billion retirement system has about $140 million in Russian investments.
Goldberg told lawmakers she does not have the authority to divest holdings in the Pension Reserves Investment Trust Fund, which requires legislative action.
Beacon Hill has responded to other wars and international crises by divesting the fund from regimes in countries such as Iran, Sudan, South Africa and Northern Ireland.
Baker signed an executive order several weeks ago directing executive branch agencies to conduct a review of state contracts to determine if there are any ties to Russian businesses that can be severed in response to the invasion.
Baker’s directive also calls on the state’s independent agencies, public colleges and universities, and other constitutional offices to adopt similar policies.
Massachusetts joins several states — including California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut — moving to have their public employee pension funds divest their holdings from Russian stocks or cease any new investments into those entities.
President Joe Biden has imposed a series of economic sanctions on Russian companies, politicians and oligarchs with ties to Putin’s regime. He has also banned the importation of Russian oil and gas.
New reports of alleged war crimes and atrocities committed by Russian troops have brought renewed demands for Western nations to provide more military support to Ukraine and take further punitive economic steps against Russia.
Biden on Monday said he believes Russia committed war crimes in the Ukrainian city of Bucha and vowed to impose more sanctions on Putin’s regime.
“This guy is brutal and what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone has seen it,” Biden told reporters.
Several neighboring nations have pledged to divest completely from Russian fuel supplies and are pressuring other nations to do the same.
And governments aren’t the only entities seeking to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, which is entering its sixth week.
More than 400 private corporations — including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Starbucks — have ended, suspended or scaled back their operations in Russia.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.