Murray sent a letter to the
The letter requests that the board re-evaluate its position on fossil fuels by updating a legal and fiduciary analysis of the issue. The board always must put the financial interests of SCERS beneficiaries above political considerations.
“Over the last month, I've heard from many Seattleites who have asked about our city's pension system, specifically whether the investments in the system adequately represent the values of
“The advocates and employees I've heard from have made compelling arguments about the need to divest pension investments from fossil fuels, and our exposure to financial risks if we don't do so. I believe these arguments have merit,” he added.
Although members of the SCERS board include two members of Murray's cabinet, the board is an independent body that the mayor has no direct control over.
As SCERS board members, the cabinet members are supposed to serve current and former city employees rather than Murray. Their responsibility is to make sure people enrolled in the pension system receive their guaranteed monthly payouts.
“I find this personally frustrating, but I also respect the limits of executive authority,” the mayor said in his letter, which he copied to members of the
Councilmember Tim Burgess chairs the SCERS board. Other members include
Murray's letter comes amid a push by activists seeking to combat climate change for the SCERS board to divest pension funds of companies associated with coal, oil and gas.
Several dozen activists, including leaders from the environmental group 350 Seattle and the
The mayor's move also follows closely on the heels of votes by the
Any changes to SCERS investment strategy likely would be accompanied by close scrutiny from former city employees who receive pension checks from the system.
The activists, calling themselves Northwest Divest, say
And they say nearly 500 city employees have signed a divestment petition. In a news release from the activists Wednesday, two city employees hailed Murray's letter.
“Divesting from fossil fuels is not only the right thing to do morally, it also makes financial sense,” said
“The survival of human society depends on the majority of fossil-fuel reserves being left in the ground. When this fact becomes clear to the market, the value of fossil-fuel stocks will crash. Smart investors will have already divested,” Flory added.
This isn't the first push for SCERS divestment of fossil fuels. But in 2014, a SCERS board-commissioned report warned against such an action.
Oil and gas investments may be headed for struggles similar to the collapse of the coal industry's in recent years, he says, noting that investors in coal “lost their shirts” five years ago.
“You could do well by doing good — do well in a financial sense by doing good in a climate sense,” Williams-Derry said. “That said, the markets are fickle and you can't know for sure what's going to happen.”
The SCERS board next meets
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