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March 28, 2009
TIAA-CREF Commits to Genocide-Free Investing in Sudan
    by Robert Kropp

Decision to engage petroleum companies whose operations support genocide in Darfur, and to divest if progress is not made, is applauded by Investors Against Genocide.


The five years of conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan have left 300,000 people dead and 2.7 million refugees who have fled from atrocities and the destruction of villages, according to United Nations estimates. The US government has called the human rights abuses in Darfur the first genocide of the 21st century, and on March 4 Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the President of Sudan, became the first sitting head of state to be charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

The military atrocities in Darfur have been funded in large part by Sudan's oil revenues, and for this reason international organizations such as Investors Against Genocide have advocated a genocide-free investment strategy in which shares in major oil companies that operate in Sudan are divested if engagement with those companies fails to achieve results.

On March 26, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association - College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF), a financial services company with approximately $400 billion in assets under management, announced a campaign to pressure portfolio companies that maintain business relations with the Sudanese government to attempt to end genocide and ease suffering in Darfur or cease those relations. TIAA-CREF has holdings in PetroChina, CNPC Hong Kong, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Sinopec, and PETRONAS.

TIAA-CREF has requested that its portfolio companies meet with TIAA-CREF executives in order to ensure that positive and meaningful humanitarian steps and attempts to end genocide are taken. In addition, TIAA-CREF has endorsed the UN-sponsored Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), and has called upon other financial services companies to increase pressure on target companies.

If milestones showing significant progress by target companies are not achieved by the end of 2009, TIAA-CREF will publicly announce the divestment from all its accounts of shares in target companies.

The TIAA-CREF decision to divest from companies that continue to substantially contribute to genocide or crimes against humanity was applauded by Investors Against Genocide, which had introduced a genocide-free shareowner proposal at TIAA-CREF's annual meeting in July 2008. TIAA-CREF did not include the proposal for voting at that time.

Investors Against Genocide announced that on the basis of TIAA-CREF's recent action in the face of genocide and crimes against humanity, it is no longer submitting shareowner proposals to TIAA-CREF.

 

 
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