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Thursday, April 15, 2010 | return to: views, editorial


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CalPERS must comply with Iran divestment law

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In the world of realpolitik, governments very often deal in shades of gray.

When it comes to the threat of a nuclear Iran, there is no gray. Only black and white; right and wrong. That nation’s renegade regime has openly, even giddily, threatened to obliterate Israel should it acquire the nuclear weapons technology it seeks. Tehran must be stopped.

With the United States leading the way, most of the nations of the world have coalesced around tough Iran sanctions policies. California, too, did its part in 2007 when the legislature passed AB 221, which prohibits the state’s two pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS, from investing in companies that are doing business in Iran.

As our story on page 3 points out, though CalSTRS, the state teachers’ pension fund, has taken some steps to divest, CalPERS has openly flouted the law. Officers with the public employees pension fund flatly refuse to comply, claiming divestment might –– might! –– adversely impact the fund’s financial performance.

This despite ample evidence that divestment would likely not hurt the fund, just as it has not hurt the state of Florida or any number of public and private entities that have divested from Iran. And even if the fund were to dip slightly in value, the moral imperative of divestment outweighs any potential losses.

How can CalPERS get away with this?

Unfortunately, the law does not include any punitive measures for noncompliance, which leaves enough wiggle room to get CalPERS off the hook, and leaves lawmakers exasperated.

Apparently the fund’s board members think of CalPERS as the 500-pound gorilla, entitled to do whatever it wants. With a portfolio valued at $213 billion, they may think they can ignore the law with impunity. But they would be wrong.

It’s high time CalPERS heard from the people of California, certainly from the Jewish community, which has much at stake in this effort.

The decision-makers at CalPERS need to know that Californians support AB 221, insist on the fund’s full compliance, and will not tolerate any flagrant disregard of the law.

We are outraged that an important government entity would ignore the will of the people and wink at the mischief Iran would happily unleash on the world.

If you would like to express your opinions directly, contact CalPERS executive staff at (916) 795-3829, or peruse its Web site (http://www.calpers.ca.gov) for other ways to reach out to them.

We’re sure they’ll enjoy hearing from you.

Related: Jewish groups turn up heat on ‘defiant’ CalPERS: Nation’s largest public pension fund ignoring


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