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State pension board votes to dump Russian investments

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The state’s public employee pension fund board voted Wednesday to divest in holdings that include Russian assets to protest the invasion of Ukraine.

“Any state assets that could be used to support and prolong Russia’s war against Ukraine runs contrary to the purpose of providing benefits to individuals who dedicate their professional lives to public service,” said Michigan Treasurer Rachael Eubanks, who chairs the board.

The board’s decision was unanimous.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter last week requesting an emergency meeting of the board.

At last check, Michigan pension funds had roughly $59 million invested in Russian assets.

That is a tiny fraction of the state’s total pension fund portfolio. But Michigan State University economics professor Charles Ballard says the impact could be felt as part of a burgeoning worldwide divestment movement that’s helped push shares of Russian companies into junk bond territory.

But, Ballard says, divestment is typically a long-term strategy and there are no guarantees it will work against Russia.

“The effects of sanctions and divestment and all sorts of other things that we might do, stopping buying Russian oil, those effects take time and yet the war is happening right now and it is not clear whether these strategies will succeed,” Ballard told Michigan Public Radio.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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