Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Inside Colorado PERA

PERA Board of Trustees updates divestment policy statement

Divestment Policy

In recent months, Colorado PERA has received inquiries about its approach to divestment from certain categories of its investments. The idea of divestment – making investment decisions based on national, or even international, public issues, with the goal of avoiding investments that are in conflict with specific public policy objectives – has become a political football of sorts for public pension funds throughout the United States. Various interest groups have called for divestment on political or environmental, social, and governance (ESG) grounds, while others have argued that pensions’ sole investment responsibility is a fiduciary one, and that past divestment efforts in states such as California have resulted in significant costs to public servants’ retirement funds. Throughout 2018, the PERA Board of Trustees worked to update the divestment policy that it first adopted in 2007, seeking input from fiduciary counsel and investment consultants, as well as hearing from PERA members.

In January 2019, the PERA Board finalized and adopted an updated Statement on Divestment. The Statement notes that PERA will implement divestment mandates from the Colorado General Assembly, but also that the Legislature should consider any such proposals with caution and fiduciary care. As the statement explains, PERA serves the singular purpose of ensuring the retirement security of Colorado’s current and former public servants.

The statement concludes:

The issues facing our world today are not easily separated into gradations of severity or importance. Consensus as to the priority of these types of issues and the proper recourse is difficult to achieve. As a result, once a divestment mandate is imposed to address one issue, the resulting “slippery slope” makes differentiation among the remaining issues contentious and divisive. Increased divestment is costly and limits PERA’s ability to effectively seek the best risk-adjusted returns to secure the retirement benefits of public servants. For these reasons, PERA will oppose divestment efforts unless such opposition is inconsistent with its fiduciary duty, but will implement divestment mandates passed by the Colorado General Assembly.

For more information on the PERA Board of Trustees, see the following PERA on the Issues posts:

Policies
and practice shape oversight and involvement of Trustees in PERA investments

Understanding
the role of Trustees

Comments

  1. Jeanne C..Fuchs says:

    I totally agree with your policy on divestment. How could the Board possibly take into consideration every one of our personal piques about foreign policy, environment, social welfare,,or health care, and still give us our comfortable pensions? And even more important, they are not set up as a political entity but rather a fiduciary entity.
    We can practice divestment in our own personal portfolios if we wish.

  2. Kara Edin says:

    I understand that PERA cannot and should not address every issue anyone has. I really don’t think that’s the point. There is a wealth of research and reporting available on the fiscal dangers some of those topics definitely present, so on a “strictly fiduciary” level the facts indicate that investment in certain entities would be financially imprudent and endanger all our pensions. This avoids the entire “slippery slope” discussion. These reports and research consider real data that should be a crucial part of your planning at PERA.

  3. Stephanie Hudson says:

    I agrre with the above comments. There is no way PERA can address each and every personal choice people may voice. PERA does need to address the fiduciary responsibility as the primary objective. This is an organization that needs to do its best to be a non-political entity in serving so many people.

  4. Kelly Simmons says:

    I agree that PERA should not take on every social and political issue that comes along. However, Climate Change threatens our way of life, our state’s economy, and the lives of our citizens. It is imperative that our public retirement fund not profit off the demise of our environment, increasing catastrophic fires and floods, and increasing lack of snow. To do so is not only immoral, but also financially risky as fossil fuels increasingly become “radioactive investments”. To get out now in a smart and measured way is the best way to protect our retirement income and our economy and our state for the future. In addition, it means that the retirement fund can begin investing in innovations for the future.

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