Staff of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest public pension fund in the country, is recommending that the fund’s Board vote in December to reinvest in tobacco, based on profits the tobacco companies have made overseas since CalPERS divested 16 years ago.
Q. Why is the tobacco decision important for fossil fuel divestment?
A. If the CalPERS board votes NOT to reinvest in tobacco, they will be incorporating a moral argument into an investment decision—paving the way for divestment from the fossil fuel companies whose business threatens our future.
CalPERS is accepting public comments on staff’s tobacco reinvestment proposal by November 11. Here’s how you can comment:
- Email: CalPERS_Stakeholder_Relations@calpers.ca.gov
- Postal mail: CalPERS, c/o Office of Stakeholder Relations, 400 Q Street, Sacramento, CA 95811
Last week staff presented a webinar on the fund’s tobacco investment and the options they will present to the Board at their December 19 meeting. You can watch the video here. In his 23-minute presentation, Chief Operating Officer Wylie Tollette made the case for reinvestment in tobacco stocks… and took no questions. He said staff will give the CalPERS board three options to consider:
- Maintain the status quo: divestment from tobacco stocks in portfolios managed by CalPERS in-house staff
- Extend tobacco divestment to portfolios managed by external firms or individuals
- Reinvest in tobacco
Staff interpreted the board’s 2000 tobacco divestment decision as applying only to directly managed investments. This is hardly divestment! CalPERS has hundreds of external managers managing other portfolios that no doubt include tobacco stocks.
Every concerned Californian has a stake in this decision. Please send CalPERS your comments by November 11. If you can, join us at the December 19 Investment Committee meeting in Sacramento, and tell the Board what you think!