Petition urges CalPERS to divest in Arizona

An online petition urging the pension giant to unload real estate holdings in the state has surfaced - an initiative designed to oppose a new immigration bill signed into Arizona law on Friday.

An online petition has surfaced urging The California Public Employees’ Retirement System to divest in Arizona companies and sell its real estate holdings in the state.

The petition comes in response to a new immigration bill signed into Arizona state law on Friday that would give Arizona police the authority to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Critics of the law say it is cruel and unfairly targets people of Latin American ethnicity.

CalPERS was targeted by the petition, started by blogger and “progressive political consultant” Bob Brigham, due to the pension’s former policy concerning investments in emerging markets. In 2002, CalPERS began placing certain emerging market countries such as Russia and China “off limits” to public equity investments if they failed to pass a grading system that required countries to provide evidence of humane labor laws and a fair legal system.

“I want CalPERS to take the same approach to investments in Arizona companies and real estate holdings in the state,” Brigham wrote. “With major boycotts in response to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signing SB 1070, it makes smart financial sense for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) to get out of Arizona as quickly as possible.” 

The grading system, developed by the pension’s consultant Wilshire Associates,  was revised in 2007 however, when the pension determined the policy had “improved business practces and addressed risk factors” of certain countries it had placed on its non-investment list.

At press time CalPERS had no response to the petition. The value of CalPERS' direct or indirect property holdings in Arizona is unclear.