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State retirement system to hold emergency meeting over Russian investments

Missouri State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick speaks at a news conference at the Missouri State Capitol on Oct. 21, 2021.


The board of the state's retirement benefit system will hold an emergency meeting Thursday over the system's investment in Russian assets.

The 4 p.m. meeting comes after Missouri State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick called on the Missouri State Employees' Retirement System, or MOSERS, to divest itself of any funds that involve Russian companies or funds.

Fitzpatrick, one of 11 members of the MOSERS board of directors, said the state's public dollars should not support Russia's economy while it continues to invade Ukraine. He called Russian President Vladimir Putin a "madman," and wanted Missouri to get itself out of any Russian investments MOSERS takes part in.

"I don't believe that any public funding, which we have in our public pension system, should go to prop up the Russian economy while this war is going on" Fitzpatrick said in an interview with ABC 17 News.

MOSERS invests money in global emerging markets, which Fitzpatrick said could include index funds from Russian banks. Those emerging market funds, managed by other companies, include assets from several different sources that MOSERS then invests in.

Candy Smith, a spokesperson for MOSERS, said that the system had "$9 million of indirect Russian exposure" in its global emerging markets investments. That's just .07 percent of the $13.3 billion the system had in assets.

A MOSERS report shows that the state has more than $5 million in assets priced in Russian rubles, between equities and fixed income.

Fitzpatrick noted that the value of those securities had a $13 million value when markets closed on Friday. He said the board would work with MOSERS staff to look at what effect selling off those assets would have on people's pension.

"We'll be working with the investment staff to make sure what we do, we do it in a responsible way for the system and the plan members that rely on the system for its pension," Fitzpatrick said. "But also in a way that's indicative of the values that we have in ensuring that constitutionally elected governments and sovereign nations aren't toppled."

State Sen. John Rizzo (D-Rizzo), a member of the MOSERS board, filed a bill that would require government pension funds to divest from Russian sources. Rizzo filed a similar bill in 2017, and said he was glad to see bipartisan support of the issue this year.

"So long as the tyrant Putin is in power, Missouri should cut its financial ties with his murderous regime," Rizzo said.

UM System spokesman Christian Basi said the system had no known direct investments in Russian companies or assets. He said system staff are reviewing its investments for any indirect ties.

Several other states started making similar moves following the Russian invasion. California lawmakers introduced a bill to divest its retirement system, the largest public pension system in the country, from Russian assets.

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Lucas Geisler

Lucas Geisler anchors 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.. shows for ABC 17 News and reports on the investigative stories.


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