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Iran and Sudan Divestment Update from Pennsylvania

While it would have been preferable if the Resolution had included all four state sponsors of terrorism – Iran, Cuba, Syria, and Sudan – it is a commendable effort no less.  Taxpayers and investors should not be forced to underwrite terror regimes and human rights abusers.  

Taking a look at sanctions-related activities outside of the beltway can give some perspective to folks in this town about how carefully calibrated efforts can contribute to such things as alerting American investors and taxpayers if their hard-earned monies are being invested or spent in countries with spotty human rights records or in terror-sponsoring states. 

Last week, Pennsylvania State Rep. Josh Shapiro introduced a Resolution that would prohibit state funds generated from the national tobacco settlements from being used to invest in foreign companies engaging in certain business activities  in Iran or Sudan. 

The monies targeted by this Resolution come from the Tobacco Settlement Investment Board (TSIB).   The Board was created in 2001  “to manage the $11 billion settlement that Pennsylvania received from the national tobacco settlement.   Settlement funds are reserved for health-related programs.  The TSIB invests a portion of the funds.  Shapiro was appointed to the TSIB in May 2008. ”

The Resolution states that the Board will “sell, redeem or divest from its holdings all securities of a foreign company which has scrutinized business activities in Iran or scrutinized business activities in Sudan.”   It defines business activities for each country and exempts humanitarian transactions such as food, medicine, and medical equipment.  The TSIB adopted the Resolution last week.

Foreign companies may complain, but the nature and legal scope of these divestment efforts are not extra-territorial in nature.  While it would have been preferable if the Resolution had included all four state sponsors of terrorism – Iran, Cuba, Syria, and Sudan – it is a commendable effort no less.  Taxpayers and investors should not be forced to underwrite terror regimes and human rights abusers.  

In related efforts, the Genocide Intervention Network has posted its annual Sudan Company Report.    Targeted Sudan divestment “maximizes pressure on the government of Sudan while minimizing potential harm to both innocent Sudanese civilians and investment returns. The targeted Sudan divestment model recently was authorized by the U.S. federal government through the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007.”  It is well worth a read.

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