Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Meet Cheryl Flagg, a savvy friend in Colorado

August 7, 2007
I am a Colorado public school retiree who has been networking with John Curry and Kathie Bracy regarding Sudan and Iran divestment of public pension funds. My interest was sparked when a Sudan divestment bill was introduced in Colorado this past January. I contacted a sponsor of that bill asking why only our public pension fund was targeted and received a totally unsatisfactory answer about the legislature having this power to divest public pension funds so they're using it. Why weren't private individuals, legislators, businesses, and other types of pension funds being asked to divest? How can divestment work if everyone doesn't divest? We contributed to our public pension fund all our working lives and suddenly there is a threat to our retirement investment.
Then I started reading Sudan divestment bills from other states and...they all looked the same. They are modeled after one written by the Sudan Divestment Task Force and contain two clauses which stand out. These bills only target the pension plan defined benefit portion but leave the defined contribution plan intact. And secondly, a "safe haven" is created for pension fund managers and trustees by releasing them from their fiduciary duty to teachers and public servants. This definitely sent a message that these divestment bill may not be all they are touted to be. How could their divestment proposal work if only part of the pension fund is targeted? And no other individual or entity divests? And it's unethical, and maybe even illegal, to eliminate fiduciary duty to investors.
And then here comes Iran divestment. The source of this one is the Center for Security Policy. It seems our salary and public pension fund contributions are considered to still be their monies since we are paid through state and local taxes. It then became obvious that these divestment initiatives are also smokescreens for the destruction and elimination of public pension funds and the redistribution of our invested retirement money. Netanyahu has also been lobbying over here for Iran divestment on the basis that this will control Iran. Well, it won't impact Iran because any divested stocks from our defined benefit plans will still be listed and sold on the stock market so anyone can purchase these money makers. And, of course, Russia and China are there to pick up the slack for Iran.
These divestment initiatives have spawned a huge lucrative market for "genocide and terror" lists. There are several companies providing these lists for large fees to pension fund managers. Here's the problem: The State Department and SEC already have sanctions in place and publish a list of companies conducting business directly with the countries on their terror list. These lists are free to everyone at the State Department and SEC web site. What these other private terror lists do is list companies that have some tangential business relationship to Iran. In other words, if a business sells a screw to a business that produces a part that is then sold to another business that has a product that they market through another company that also markets a product from a company selling directly to Iran, then they all make these new terror lists. It's like playing the game "Six Degrees of Separation"; in this era of globalization, everything is just that connected. Another problem? None of these terror lists match up, since numbers range anywhere from 40 to 485 companies. And these "terror lists" companies are not transparent so we don't know the criteria they use to select companies to put on their terror lists.
Certain politicians are using divestment to gain publicity and further their political careers as is pointed out in the Forbes article below. There are also other links to articles that might be helpful. Some of these are "stealth" articles which must be read all the way through to get the true message. Going to and scrolling through to the divestment articles and letters is also an excellent source of information. Unfortunately, there is not one single article that covers this current divestment initiative in depth from the beginning to present time. A final thought: We should all remember that sanctions and divestment hurt people, not government leaders.
Cheryl Flagg
PERA Retiree
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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