Pittsburgh Mayor Asks Pension to Divest Guns, Fossil Fuels, Private Prisons

'These are areas that our financial means should not perpetuate,’ says Bill Peduto.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is asking the board of the city’s Comprehensive Municipal Pension Trust, of which he is a member, to develop and execute a strategy to divest from fossil fuel firms, firearm and ammunition companies, and for-profit prisons.

In a letter to the board, Peduto cited Pittsburgh’s history of “exercising both moral and financial authority” as precedence for divesting from controversial companies.

“In the past, the city has divested from socially irresponsible companies including those associated with apartheid in South Africa, companies that use child labor, and removing our monetary assets from financial institutions that demonstrate irresponsible community lending practices,” Peduto wrote in the letter. “The city’s leadership as a socially responsible investor has helped to advance just causes and helped to lead formative social change.  A similar time is upon us to act and provide leadership.”

Peduto said that Pittsburgh and its residents are being negatively impacted by climate change, acts of gun violence, and an incarceration system that is enabling systemic inequality. “These are areas that our financial means should not perpetuate,” he added. He is seeking divestment recommendations from the board by the end of the year.

In October 2018, the city was shaken by a mass shooting at a local synagogue that killed 11 people. In April, Peduto, flanked by family members and friends of those killed in the shooting, signed new firearms regulations that banned assault weapons, and the use of certain ammunition and modified guns. The legislation also implemented so-called “extreme risk protection orders” that allows the courts to temporarily take firearms away from those shown to be a danger to themselves or others.  

“If Washington and Harrisburg refuse to recognize this is a public health emergency, and refuse to stand up to gun manufacturers, then we must take action to challenge laws and protect our people,” Peduto said when signing the legislation. 

The Comprehensive Municipal Pension Trust Fund is comprised of the Municipal Pension Fund, the Firemen’s Relief and Pension Fund, and the Policemen’s Relief and Pension Fund. As of the end of March, the fund had a total market value of $758.9 million, and its total invested portfolio had a market value of approximately $463.2 million.

Any divestment of fossil fuels, firearms, and private prisons, however, may be more of symbolic gesture as the fund’s investments in those sectors “are not really high to begin with,” Adam Hoffman, the internal auditor for the pension fund with the city’s Finance Department, told the Pittsburgh Gazette, though he did not provide specific figures.

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