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Comptroller calls for pension system to divest from Russia

Posted at 3:30 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-01 17:40:30-05

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Maryland’s Comptroller is calling for the State Retirement and Pension System to divest from Russian entities to send a strong message for their actions in Ukraine.

“We need to burn the financial bridges with Russia until they change their behavior,” said Comptroller Peter Franchot. “It’s punitive of this inhumane situation where civilians are now being targeted in major metropolitan areas.”

Franchot, who is the chairman of their board of trustees, said it wouldn’t have any impact on people enrolled in the system because it makes up a small fraction of the system’s assets.

He wrote a letter to the SRPS Monday, urging the agency to immediately divest from any investments in Russian entities.

“We don’t have the power in the board to actually get out of a specific investment so I sent it to the right people in the system and they’re going to look at it,” said Franchot.

The pension system is invested in stocks, holdings and bonds in Russian entities. Before the invasion, they had a $197 million market value.

Since the invasion and imposed sanctions, the market value was cut in half, dropping by $100 million. However, the system’s chief investment officer said their investments in Russia are so small that other global investments far offset any loses.

CIO Andrew Palmer said in a statement they are in contact with the managers holding the largest positions. They are also working to understand how sanctions are likely to impact them.

“If Ukraine loses, we’re gonna lose,” said Franchot.

Franchot said he’s looking into every avenue for Russian ties to sever, including real estate developers and the Port of Baltimore, which he said imports a tremendous amount of Russian commodity.