New York-based TIAA-CREF says it will divest from companies doing business with the Sudanese government if the firms don't stop that business or don't attempt to end genocide and ease suffering in Darfur.
"We will evaluate progress within nine months and, if we still hold positions in these companies at that time, we will divest their shares from all accounts if milestones showing significant progress are not achieved, and announce that decision publicly. If target companies-PetroChina, CNPC Hong Kong, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Sinopec, and PETRONAS-refuse to meet with us, we will divest promptly," the company said in a press release today.
"If they agree to engage in a productive dialogue, we will continue to hold their shares as long as progress continues and as long as portfolio management concerns warrant," it added. "If a company takes meaningful steps to ease suffering and attempts to end genocide, we will remove it from our divestment list and continue the dialogue to assure changes occur."
As a result, Investors Against Genocide announced it withdrew its shareholder proposal from the proxy ballot for TIAA-CREF's July shareholders' meeting. The group has been pressuring TIAA-Cref to divest from firms investing in the Sudan.
Also, U.S. Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Melvin L. Watt (D-NC) issued statements applauding the announcement announcement.
TIAA-CREF says it will:
Seek meetings between its executives and executives of these companies to encourage them to take positive and meaningful humanitarian steps and attempt to end genocide;
Publicly endorse the U.N.-sponsored Principles for Responsible Investment. Signatories include institutional investors with a combined $2.5 trillion in assets under management with whom we will join to urge companies operating in Sudan to confront human rights abuses; and
Call upon other financial services companies to follow our lead and increase pressure on target companies.
On March 10, Vanguard announced that it had implemented a new, corporate-wide policy that it said was "substantially identical" to Investors Against Genocide's shareholder proposal regarding investments in companies connected with genocide and crimes against humanity. According to Vanguard's SEC filing of preliminary proxy materials for its shareholder meeting on July 2, 2009, the Vanguard funds' "trustees directed Vanguard to implement a formal procedure for regular reporting to the trustees on portfolio companies whose direct involvement in crimes against humanity or patterns of egregious abuses of human rights would warrant engagement or potential divestment."