Gov. Whitmer Calls on State Pension Funds to Divest Investments From Russia

Image via Shutterstock

By Keya Vakil

March 2, 2022

“Last week, the world watched with horror as President Vladimir Putin launched an illegal and destructive war against the people of Ukraine. These heinous attacks are aimed at overthrowing Ukraine’s democratic government and violate international law,” Whitmer said.

Need to Know

  • Gov. Whitmer called on state pension plans to divest investments from Russia.
  • About .06% of the state’s fund holdings are associated with Russian companies, the Detroit Free Press reported.
  • Democratic state Rep. Darrin Camilleri introduced a bill to add Russia to the list of countries in Michigan’s Divestment from Terror Act, which would require an immediate divestment of state money and assets from companies with business operations connected to Russia and prevent future investments.

MICHIGAN—Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday she wants state pension plans to divest any investments from Russia after “its illegal and destructive war against the people of Ukraine.”

In a letter to State Treasurer Rachael Eubanks, Whitmer called on the State of Michigan Investment Board to hold a special meeting to divest the state of Michigan Retirement Systems pension plans from Russia. She also asked Eubanks to do the same with other state trust funds she oversees. 

“Last week, the world watched with horror as President Vladimir Putin launched an illegal and destructive war against the people of Ukraine. These heinous attacks are aimed at overthrowing Ukraine’s democratic government and violate international law,” Whitmer wrote. “Since then, the federal government and our international allies and partners have announced significant sanctions targeting Russian financial institutions, state-owned enterprises, and other government-related activities. Michigan supports these national and international sanctions and should align our state-level actions.”

Only about .06% of the state’s fund holdings are associated with Russian companies, according to Ron Leix, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Treasury. 

“These holdings are managed by external managers and primarily invested in international stock indexes and mutual types of funds,” Leix told the Detroit Free Press. “External managers buy and hold these types of securities, so the state’s retirement system is not the direct owner of the holdings. Russia has not been, nor is it currently, an investment focus.”

While the tangible impact of Whitmer’s announcement is minimal, the symbolic gesture is more meaningful. Michigan is home to roughly 46,000 people of Ukrainian heritage, according to estimates from the Ukrainian-American Crisis Response Committee of Michigan. Members of the state’s Ukrainian community and other supporters have held rallies across the state to express solidarity with Ukraine.

Whitmer said she wants funds divested from “any investments in institutions or companies headquartered in Russia or that have their principal place of business in Russia.”

Governors in several other states, including North Carolina and Colorado, have taken similar steps.

Democratic state Rep. Darrin Camilleri has also introduced legislation to add Russia to the list of countries in Michigan’s Divestment from Terror Act. If successful, Camilleri’s effort would require an immediate divestment of state money and assets from companies with business operations connected to Russia and prevent future investments.

The US currently lists the governments of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria as state sponsors of acts of international terrorism.

“By ensuring the State’s investments and funds do not support the financial interests of the Russian government, we stand alongside the Ukrainian people and our American allies at this dangerous moment in history,” Camilleri said.

Author

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

CATEGORIES: Uncategorized

Politics

Local News

Related Stories
Share This