The Illinois House could pass a measure as early as next week that bars the state's public pension funds from investing in or doing business with companies that have ties to Sudan. California, Texas, New Jersey and New York have also introduced legislation that would either require pension fund divestment or encourage public systems to steer clear of companies that do business in the region. Activists and state officials are hoping divestment will continue to gain momentum as a way to apply economic pressure on the Sudanese government and counter genocide and other human rights abuses in the nation's Darfur region.
One component missing from the Illinois bill is a list of companies doing business in Sudan, making it difficult for public pension funds to discern what kind of financial impact divestment would have on their returns and risk profile. However, several major public companies with financial ties to Sudan have emerged as legislators wage their respective campaigns; DivestSudan.org list PetroChina, Siemens AG, Alcatel SA, AO Taftnet and ABB Ltd. as some firms that do business with Sudan.
The Illinois bill is "fairly broad, and the processing of identifying such publicly traded companies that conduct business in Sudan will be a fairly onerous project, and we will not undertake to do that until we know what the law finally is," said William Atwood, executive director of the $10.6 billion Illinois State Board of Investment, Chicago.
The Illinois bill would give pension funds about two years to divest.