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January 25, 2016

Vermont State Retirees say No to Divestment

While some big-name environmental activists are busy grabbing headlines by endorsing Gov. Shumlin’s call to divest, the media has largely overlooked a key resolution passed by the Vermont Retired State Employees Association, Inc. (VRSEA) that firmly rejects divestment by the state’s pension fund. Last month, the VRSEA passed a resolution supporting Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce in managing state funds “in accordance with appropriate statuary and fiduciary requirements.”

Minutes from the December 2nd VRSEA meeting state:

“A Resolution Concerning “Investment of Pension Funds” was discussed. It was voted by the VRSEA, Inc. Board of Directors “That the Board of Directors of the VRSEA, Inc., on behalf of its retired members, support that the responsibility to make prudent investment decisions in accordance with appropriate statutory and fiduciary requirements, continue to be vested in the Vermont Pension Investment Committee and not the legislature or any other entity.” President Reed would sign and send to the State Treasurer.”

VRSEA is a non-profit, member directed organization representing the interests of over 1,100 retired state employees and their families. VRSEA is recognized in the Vermont Statutes as the voice of retired state employees and authorized as a voting trustee on the State Retirement Board. With the needs of Vermont’s nearly 50,000 retirees in mind, the VRSEA discussed and passed a resolution supporting the “prudent investment decisions” of Treasurer Pearce who has opposed calls to divest for years. In fact, Pearce calculated that Vermont’s pension funds stand to lose approximately $10 million a year under a divested portfolio.

As we noted earlier, the Director of Investments for Vermont has also calculated that divestment would cost the state another $8.5 million in implementation fees and directly violates the “Exclusive Benefit Rule” which states that trustees must act for the exclusive benefit of the plan’s beneficiaries.

It’s clear from the VRSEA’s resolution that the plan’s beneficiaries themselves are opposed to risking their livelihoods just so that “the legislature or any other entity” can make a political statement on fossil fuels. In his highly publicized call to divest, Gov. Shumlin has effectively ignored the voices of the hardworking citizens of Vermont who stand to lose the most from divestment.