Illinois state retirement systems could potentially have to divest more than $1 billion in assets under a bill that would ban them from investing in companies that have business connections with Sudan, said state Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins, chief sponsor of the legislation. Companies with products distributed by other companies in Sudan would be among those affected by the bill, which moved to the House state government administration committee Wednesday after passing the Senate unopposed. The funds would have almost two years to divest, Ms. Collins said.
"We're trying to put economic pressure on Sudan to counter the genocide" in the Darfur region and other human rights abuses in the country, she said. "I was amazed how much Illinois has invested" connected with Sudan.
"We clearly have investments in companies that would be in violation of this law," said William Atwood, executive director of the $10.6 billion Illinois State Board of Investment, Chicago. "We have engaged (some of) these companies and asked them to reconsider their investments in Sudan. … We have not divested."
Mr. Atwood said he is troubled by a provision in the bill that would require each of the systems' money managers to use "an independent researching firm that specializes in global security risk." If the bill is adopted, he said he would prefer that the systems do the screening and provide the list of restricted companies to the managers, adding that ISBI hasn't taken a position on the legislation.
Other systems that would be affected are the $33 billion Illinois State Teachers' Retirement System, Springfield; the $13.1 billion Illinois State Universities Retirement System, Champaign; and the $17.8 billion Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, Oak Brook.