By Hilary Russ
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City's teacher pension fund has sold its stocks of publicly traded firearms manufacturers, becoming the largest U.S. public pension fund to do so in response to the school shootings in Connecticut, the city's top financial officer said.
The $46.6 billion fund divested all its holdings in five companies, for investments valued at $13.5 million as of January 26, a spokesman for New York City Comptroller John Liu said on Friday.
U.S. teachers and public employees retirement funds, began reviewing their investments in firearms makers after 20 children and six adults were shot dead at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut in December.
"There is no need to support these companies, whose products can destroy lives and shatter communities in the blink of an eye," Liu said in a statement. "Our investment portfolio gains nothing by doing business with these firms."
Under pressure from the second-largest U.S. public pension fund - the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS), U.S. private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management said days after the massacre in Connecticut that it would sell gunmaker Freedom Group, which made the brand of semi-automatic rifle used in the shooting.
Cerberus has not completed its sale of Freedom, CalSTRS spokesman Ricardo Duran told Reuters. Duran would not comment on the details of any possible sale but said CalSTRS is monitoring the progress.
"We're confident that they'll be able to do this in a fairly timely manner," Duran said. "We don't want to push them. We don't want to be driving the sale of this."
CalSTRS wants to get a fair market price and understands that a sale takes time, he said. A Cerberus spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment.
In January, CalSTRS decided to sell its investments in manufacturers of firearms and high-capacity ammunition clips that are banned in California. That divestment is still underway.
California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer is also pressing the biggest U.S. fund, the $254 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, to shed its $5 million of exposure to firearms manufacturers. CalPERS' board will discuss a recent report on its investments in gunmakers next week.
New York state's $150 billion public pension fund said in January that it will stop buying shares of publicly traded firearms manufacturers, including Sturm Ruger, but had not decided whether to dump its investments in the companies.
New York City's teacher pension fund is also invested in gun retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc., but a spokesman for Liu would not comment on whether the fund is reviewing its holdings of gun sellers.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by James Dalgleish and Andrew Hay)