Saturday, July 3, 2010

TIAA-CREF and the occupation

Many of us who work in academics, health care, or non-profit organizations have our retirement funds invested with the giant financial services company, TIAA-CREF. TIAA-CREF has investments in corporations that profit from the Israeli occupation, corporations such as Caterpillar and Motorola. A Jewish Voice for Peace is campaigning to get TIAA-CREF to divest its holdings from such corporations (see text of petition below).

TIAA-CREF has been peddling a double line for some time. On the one hand, it affirms that its responsibility is to invest in a diversity of corporations in order to earn a "competitive financial return on the retirement savings" of its investors (see its reply to the JVP petition, printed below). At the same time, its corporate slogan is "Financial Services for the Greater Good", and its Policy Statement on Corporate Governance affirms social values and a commitment to use investment as a tool to promote positive social change.
(see: ) Moreover, intensive divestment campaigns have succeeded in getting TIAA-CREF to divest from World Bank bonds and, most recently, from "certain companies with ties to Sudan."

In view of this, it is particularly incumbent on those of us who are invested in TIAA-CREF to let them know that we do not want our rates of return maximized at the cost of human rights abuses and violations of international law. And even if TIAA-CREF is only interested in cost-benefit analyses, the persistent struggles of the Palestinian people and Israeli and international peace activists may ultimately affect the bottom line of unethical companies like Caterpillar (as was the case in South Africa). Please click on the link below to take action.

Judith Norman
Joel Beinin
Alistair Welchman
TIAA-CREF shareholders

We are participants and investors in TIAA-CREF funds who are deeply concerned that TIAA-CREF invests in many companies that profit from Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Some of these companies provide weapons and covert surveillance supplies that maintain the occupation by force. Others take or exploit Palestinian resources, including scarce water and even the land itself. All are profiting from Israel's violations of international law and international human rights standards.

Some examples:

CATERPILLAR profits from the destruction of Palestinian homes and the uprooting of Palestinian orchards by supplying the armor-plated and weaponized bulldozers that are used for such demolition work.

VEOLIA profits from the construction and expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements by operating a landfill in the West Bank, exploiting Palestinian natural resources to serve the settlements, and by contracting for the future operation of an illegal light rail system connecting these settlements with Jerusalem.

NORTHROP GRUMMAN profits from the production of parts for the Apache helicopters and F-16 aircrafts used by Israel against civilians in Gaza during Israel's 2008-09 assault.

ELBIT profits from the confiscation of Palestinian land by providing surveillance equipment that is mounted on the Separation Wall, which was declared unlawful by the International Court of Justice.

MOTOROLA profits from Israel's control of the Palestinian population by providing surveillance systems around Israeli settlements, checkpoints, and military camps in the West Bank, as well as communication systems to the Israeli army and West Bank settlers.

While the specific companies held change over time, TIAA-CREF's investment criteria do not screen out such investments, which are incompatible with our values and with corporate social responsibility.

Out of commitment to equality, freedom and international law, we therefore urgently request that:

TIAA-CREF divest from companies that:

Directly profit from or contribute to the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Provide products or services that contribute to the construction and maintenance of Israeli settlements and/or the Separation Wall, both of which are illegal under international law.

Provide products or services that contribute to or enable violent acts that target civilians.

TIAA-CREF establish investment criteria to exclude any such companies in the future.

For almost 100 years, TIAA-CREF has striven to provide financial services for the greater good, helping those of us in the academic, medical, cultural, and research fields to plan for and live in retirement. Please help us invest the fruit of our labor and enjoy our retirement in good conscience.


TIAA-CREF's "Statement on request by Jewish Voice for Peace"

June 24, 2010

While TIAA-CREF acknowledges participants' varying views on Israeli and Palestinian policies and the Gaza Strip and West Bank, we are unable to alter our investment policy in accordance with those views. Our responsibility to earn a competitive financial return on the retirement savings entrusted to us by 3.7 million participants obliges us to invest in a diverse line-up of companies across all sectors of the global economy.

* * *

Questions & Answers

Why not divest from such companies as Caterpillar, Northrop Grumman, and Motorola?

Our responsibility to earn a competitive financial return on the retirement savings entrusted to us obliges us to invest in a diverse line-up of companies across all sectors of the global economy. The holdings at issue comply fully with U.S. law.

Last year you divested from companies with ties to Sudan. How similar is the situation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank?

Our decision to sell shares in certain companies with ties to Sudan culminated a three-year effort to encourage them to take affirmative steps to ease human rights abuses and end genocide in the region in which they operate.

Our divestment action was consistent with U.S. foreign policy, as enshrined in the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007, which made it easier for mutual funds and private pension fund managers to sell their investments in companies with ties to the Sudanese government.

We believe that concerns about the situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are best addressed by U.S. foreign policy and lend themselves less to using one's shareholder status to influence portfolio companies.

For more on our divestment from Sudan, click here;

Click here (PDF) more on our engagement policy and practices;

Read more on socially responsible investing (PDF) at TIAA-CREF.

TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services, LLC and Teachers Personal Investors Services, Inc., members FINRA, distribute securities products

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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