SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The nation's largest teacher pension fund took the first step Wednesday toward divesting from companies that make guns and high-capacity ammunition magazines that are illegal in California.
State Treasurer Bill Lockyer made a motion to begin the divestment process after pension fund officials determined that the fund invests in the owner of a company that manufactured one of the weapons used in the Connecticut school shooting. The California State Teachers' Retirement System's investment committee unanimously approved the motion.
CalSTRS has investments in private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP, which owns the manufacturer of an assault weapon used at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The pension fund also owns shares of Sturm, Ruger & Co. and Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., two publicly traded gun-makers.
The three investments make up a tiny fraction of the pension system's holdings, about $11.7 million out of the $155 billion fund, according to CalSTRS staff.
Harry Keiley, a high school teacher with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and chairman of the board's investment committee, said before Wednesday's vote that the pension board has the power to change its investments.
After the shooting, Keiley said: "I sat there with all of my thoughts and feeling very powerless knowing that I don't sit on the Supreme Court, I don't cast a vote in the United States Congress, I don't sit in the state Legislature. I'm a school teacher and dad. And then it dawned on me ... that I and this board are not powerless."
Pension staff will meet with the companies and determine the impact divesting would have on the fund's performance. They'll report back to the board at an unspecified date.
Lockyer also wants the California Public Employees' Retirement System, the nation's largest public pension fund, to divest from companies that make the types of weapons and high-capacity magazines that are illegal in the state. The treasurer, who sits on both pension boards, is expected to make a formal motion for CalPERS in February.
CalPERS did not return a call for comment Wednesday.