WA pension funds sell $100m of Russian assets

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OLYMPIA — Public officials in Washington are poised to cut ties between state government and Russian institutions following the invasion of Ukraine — but there may not be much to cut.

In a statement Friday, the Washington State Investment Board announced plans to shed about $100 million in Russia-related assets, saying the agency was “appalled by the unwarranted military assault on Ukraine. , and… appalled by the human tragedy of this conflict”. ”

The announcement came around the same time Governor Jay Inslee elaborated on his directive to cut all ties between state agencies and Russian institutions, and said he was considering providing a humanitarian aid to Ukraine and refugees.

During a question-and-answer session with reporters after a bill-signing event, Inslee said he spoke with members of the Ukrainian community in Washington to explore ways to help.

“We are also having conversations with our air partners in our state about ways to provide physical assistance to Ukraine and refugees who are now in other countries,” Inslee said. “I don’t have any more details today, but we are moving as fast as we can in that direction.”

Asked about the remarks, an Alaska Airlines spokesperson wrote in an email: “We are working with the governor’s office and have no details to share at this time.”

The governor encouraged people who want to help to go to the Ukrainian Association of Washington State website.

The $100 million targeted by the investment board represents less than 0.10% of its entire portfolio, according to its statement. Among other functions, the council manages investments for a multitude of public pension plans, including for firefighters, law enforcement officers, teachers and school workers, judges and other government employees. .

“Our exposure to investments in Russian companies is extremely limited due to our long-standing skepticism of Russia as an investment market,” the statement said. “Our total investment exposure to Russia is low and we do not invest directly in any Russian banks, companies or real estate.”

That $100 million is limited to stocks “involving a global index fund and a few active public equity managers,” according to Chris Phillips, director of institutional relations and public affairs for the board.

“Best described as a very small part of the pension plan program and other funds where some exposure to global equities is used,” Phillips wrote in an email.

Inslee also released its directive on Friday to sever ties between Washington state agencies and Russian institutions.

The directive requires state agencies to conduct an initial review to identify any “commercial or other contracts, investments and relationships with ties to Russian institutions or large companies” and provide their findings to the governor’s office by March 18.

These contracts may still require further investigation to see if the state should breach them, according to the directive, and “no action to terminate any contract or investment may take place without the express approval of the governor’s office.”

Inslee acknowledged Friday that there might not be much to cut. While the state is just beginning its review, Inslee said, “it’s not going to be monumental and single-handedly bring Vladimir Putin to his senses on this.

“But it’s another brick in the wall,” he said. “And I believe that everyone in the world today who appreciates democracy and understands the long-term security threats of giving in to its madness will put their bricks in the wall as well.”

GOP Representatives Drew Stokesbary of Auburn and Drew MacEwen of Union also this week introduced Bill 2135, which would require state agencies and authorities to divest public funds related to the Russia.

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