Nine days after SFR reported that the State Investment Office has $42.3***image1*** million tied up in "highest offender" corporations conducting business in Sudan [Outtakes, Oct 31: "Khartoum Strip"], New Mexico became the 22nd state to commit to a divestment plan.
The move was one of the speediest, most direct divestment decisions taken by a state government to date. Bypassing the Legislature and a State Investment Council vote, State Investment Officer Gary Bland ordered international portfolio manager Alliance Bernstein to liquidate the state's stock in the seven companies "as soon as is practicable."
"We are also sending a strong message to the corporate world that New Mexico will not accept investment profits that come at the expense of innocent lives lost to genocide," Bland says in a press release issued on Nov. 9.
However, according to SFR's October calculations, the state will still see a profit return of more than $40 million. The seven companies are: Lundin Petroleum, Sinopec Corp. PetroChina, Wartsila OYJ, Alstom, Chennai Petroleum and Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding.
To identify and monitor its investments, the SIO will refer to research from the Sudan Divestment Task Force, a project started by the Genocide Intervention Network in 2004. According to the Task Force, Sudan cannot refine its oil and gas resources and, therefore, the government in Khartoum contracts with foreign corporations. The profits Khartoum receives are allegedly used to fund the ongoing conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan.
SFR also reported that the Public Employees Retirement Association holds $28.3 million worth of stock in "highest offender" companies in Sudan [Outtakes, Oct 17: "Blood Pensions"]. PERA's legal counsel has so far disagreed with Bland's interpretation of state law and says it cannot divest without legislative action.
"Next year we have campaigns planned in another two dozen states," Task Force Director Adam Sterling says. "Symbolically, as we move into the next legislative sessions, I think New Mexico could really be the spark that kicks it off, similar to how California [influenced other states] in 2006."
The divestment should be nearly complete by this Friday, in time for next month's opening of Darfur Now, a new documentary from the makers of An Inconvenient Truth. Sterling and the Task Forceâ€™s successful California divestment campaign is one of the central storylines in the film.
"I think it's an important time," Sterling says. "The divestment coming out of New Mexico, the film, weâ€™re in the midst of peace talks and a peace-keeping force has been approved. Now, the devil's in the details and to make those things actually happen, there needs to be international attention."
Yet, the news isn't completely positive. SFR also previously reported that Santa Fe-based Thornburg Investment Management has more than $480 million invested in oil companies tied to Sudan [Outtakes, Oct 10: "Thorny Funds"]. According to a Bloomberg article last week, Thornburg is leading the charge in investing in Chinese oil companies, with 21 percent of its $43 billion fund devoted to so-called "emerging-market" stocks. Last week, a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation, the largest oil operator currently in Sudan, became the world's first company to be worth more than $1 trillion.
"It's amazing when you confront investors about PetroChina," Sterling says. "They say, 'We agree with you that what CNPC is doing is bad, but PetroChina is separate from that.' That's just not true. They're sneaky about hiding their connections. Our hope is that this increased scrutiny that comes with PetroChina being such a large company will shine light on their connections to Sudan and investors will realize that."