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TRS divests gun company holdings
Mayor’s rep lone trustee to vote against move made in wake of Newtown massacre
by Dorothy Callaci | February 28, 2013 New York Teacher issue
UFT President Michael Mulgrew praised the vote by the three teacher members of the New York City Teachers’ Retirement System to sell the $13.5 million pension fund holdings in publicly traded securities of gun and ammunition manufacturers as “the right thing to do” in the wake of the December school shootings that left 20 children and six adults dead in Newtown, Conn.
The single vote against divestment came from a Bloomberg representative on the retirement board of trustees who said the mayor, a major gun-control advocate, doesn’t believe in mixing politics and finance. The city comptroller’s representative also voted for divestment.
“After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” Mulgrew said, “we as educators had to make sure that guns were not part of our holdings.”
The vote to divest from companies such as Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co. followed a request by the TRS Board of Trustees for an evaluation of the system’s investment in the firearms industry, which concluded the move to divest would be consistent with TRS fiduciary standards and investment process.
In announcing the 4-1 Feb. 15 decision, City Comptroller John Liu, the custodian and investment adviser to the city’s five pension funds, said that the vote was a sound decision that sent a clear message about the fund’s commitment to addressing gun violence.
“There is no need to support these companies whose products can destroy lives and shatter communities in the blink of an eye,” Liu said. “Our investment portfolio gains nothing by doing business with these firms.”
The $46.6 billion TRS pension fund is the largest in the country so far to sell off its gun holdings. Others, including the state teachers’ pension fund in California, are considering the option to sell or have begun the divestment process.
Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm, another Bloomberg representative on the TRS Board, missed the vote, but said she also opposed divestment.
Mulgrew said he found the mayor’s position surprising.
“I don’t understand how the mayor, who wants to be characterized as a national leader on gun control, has allowed his people to vote against divesting from gun manufacturers,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense.”