State Comptroller Just Not That Into Radical Divestment Proposal

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State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has warned public officials to put the financial stability of the state’s pension fund ahead of special interests when considering divestment from fossil fuels.

In his State of the State agenda, Governor Cuomo suggested DiNapoli was working with him to divest the New York State Retirement Fund from traditional energy companies. DiNapoli pointed out that such a radical change to the state’s pension fund could not be managed overnight.

The comptroller highlighted that it took two years for the fund to divest $90 million from companies doing business with Sudan and Iran. And the Times Union reports that the pension fund has “$1 billion invested in Exxon Mobil alone.”

Not to mention that divestment could also jeopardize public pensions if investments are made in less secure industries. That means taxpayers will have to pay more to make up for losses, pensioners may see reduced benefits, and if the fund really sees significant losses, federal taxpayers might be hit up for a bailout.

Comptroller DiNapoli said that being pressured into divesting would compromise the Comptroller’s duty of protecting the pension system, and he’s defended against politicizing the fund.

In addition, DiNapoli has stated that being an investor in the energy industry will give New Yorkers leverage over companies’ decisions.

Earlier this week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city’s five pension funds would divest $5 billion from oil and gas companies. The Mayor also filed a lawsuit against BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell, accusing them of causing Hurricane Sandy.

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