The Teachers Insurance Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund, which has created dissent in some quarters with its corporate governance activism, now faces some internal dissent of its own.
Neil Wollman, a professor at Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., and a TIAA-CREF investor, has been urging the $240 billion money manager to invest from 5% to 10% of the assets of its $3.58 billion Social Choice Account in what he calls "positive investing" in "progressive, typically small companies and community development corporations."
Such investing, he said, could lower the return of the fund because the companies tend to be small and young, have a relatively small number of shares outstanding and to not attract much investor interest.
Mr. Wollman has been trying to persuade TIAA-CREF officials to invest in such companies since 1995. Recently he has renewed his push -- details can be found at www.manchester.edu, under the "Social Choice For Social Change" page found in the index.
Mr. Wollman contends that in a survey done by TIAA-CREF in 1995, "over 80% of the people (invested) in the (Social Choice) fund said they wanted this change to happen; that they want TIAA-CREF to invest in companies that make a difference."
Two-thirds of the respondents said they would be willing to accept a lower return if it would lead to social change, he said.
Claire Sheehan, a spokeswoman for TIAA-CREF, responded to Mr. Wollman's assertions by saying he "is interpreting it out of context. It was an internal survey that went only to a few hundred participants."
Concerning Mr. Wollman's proposal in general, she said, "TIAA-CREF's trustees committee on corporate governance and social responsibility has formally reviewed Mr. Wollman's proposal and determined it was an impractical one for the TIAA-CREF pension system to pursue and communicated that to Mr. Wollman a couple of years ago."