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Florida Pension Fund Will Keep Gun Investments but Urge Manufacturers to Act Responsibly

December 4, 2018 - 6:00am

Florida has joined a coalition of major pension funds and investment companies that have adopted a set of principles aimed at encouraging gun manufacturers and retailers to act responsibly.

Ash Williams, executive director of the State Board of Administration, which oversees the state pension fund and other investments, said the agreement carries no mandates for gun-related companies. But he said it is designed to raise awareness of issues that could impact the value of investments in the firearms industry.

“We’re not telling anybody, any private company, exactly what they should be doing. Our concern is motivated very simply by one thing, as fiduciaries anything that poses a risk to the value of the assets that we own on behalf of our beneficiaries, we want to make sure we’re managing it properly,” Williams said in an interview with The News Service of Florida.

“By extension, if there is a risk or peril to the stock value of a company that we own in our portfolio, we want to make sure that company is, A, aware of it and, B, attentive to it. That’s all this is,” he said.

In signing the “Principles for a Responsible Civilian Firearms Industry” last month, Florida joined more than a dozen public pension funds and investment companies that have adopted the document.

“We believe that enterprises involved in the manufacturing, distribution, sale and enforcement of regulations of the firearms industry are well-positioned to support pragmatic transparency and safety measures that contribute to the responsible use of firearms,” the document said.

The agreement said gun companies can apply the principles, which include measures like background checks and making guns easier to trace, “in a manner they deem appropriate.”

The document also acknowledged numerous regulations already faced by the industry but said “more can be voluntarily done by companies within these existing regulatory boundaries to advance safety and the responsible use of civilian firearms.”

The effort to adopt the firearms-industry principles was led by the California State Teachers Retirement System, which with some $229 billion in assets as of Sept. 30 is the largest educator-related pension fund in the world.

“This is not a political statement about constitutional rights,” Christopher Ailman, chief investment officer for the California fund, said in a statement. “It is a joint assertion by all of the signatories that investors have a stake in advancing public safety.”

Pension funds from Oregon, Maine, Connecticut and Maryland have also signed the agreement. Several investment companies, including Nuveen and State Street Global Advisors, are supporting the principles. The pension funds and companies managed nearly $5 trillion in assets as of the fall, according to a mid-November statement from the group.

Williams said there is an “ample history” of companies that have responded, both well and badly, when their products present safety risks.

He said a good example was Johnson & Johnson’s response when tampering of Tylenol products became a problem. He said the company responded immediately, including creating a more secure package.

“Guess what? It solved the problem and the value of J & J has been strong ever since,” Williams said. “Plenty of people have had to deal with product liability issues. They just need to be attentive.”

Williams also said using the principles to encourage improvements in the firearms industry is a better step than facing calls for the pension fund to divest its gun-related investments.

“Our view is that divestiture is a very inefficient if not completely inappropriate tool for addressing social concerns,” he said.

With a main pension fund of more than $160 billion and total investments being managed by the Board of Administration of more than $200 billion, Williams said the firearms-related investments held by Florida are “very small” in comparison to the overall funds.

Williams also said the adoption of the principles is not part of any effort to restrict constitutional gun rights.

“Many of us at the board are weapons owners and some of us have concealed-carry permits. This not about challenging the Second Amendment,” he said.


I wouldn't want my pension fund to be invested in "guns" ... but the GOPs in the Florida legislature should DEFINITELY rid themselves of the corrupting influence of Marion Hammer! (How they all can be continually led around by the nose by an 80-year-old great grandmother from the boondocks of South Carolina is beyond me!)

Florida pension system admistrators will soon "be going the way" of "Dicks Sporting Goods" investors...DOWN! You just can't defy "THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE" and the "U.S. CONSTITUTION" without serious and dire ramifications befalling you..!

And exactly what is it they are trying to do??? since it appears with your capitalized letters and all, you seem to know!!!

You MIGHT (ALL CAPS) be able to figure it out for yourself "SMH", (but for your apparently meretriciously flawed intelligence), but give it a try, why don't you?

Corporate Governance is about increasing stock value... so this effort is about making gun manufacturing businesses worth more money. I sure hope you don't think that is "attacking your right to own and use a gun."

DeSantis needs to fire Ash Williams.

Anyone critical of this move obviously didn't read the whole article, is having difficulty understanding its implications, or is more interested in assigning specious intent.

Bull. Crap. Where is the concern about auto manufacturers and traffic fatalities? Where is the memorandum to social media companies about the fiduciary duty to protect its customers information and not illegally sell it causing a market cap drop of 25%? Where is the concern over cell phone usage in vehicles resulting in more than half of all rear end accidents? How about the concern that fast food joints such as Zaxbys, Arbys, McDonalds target people with gigantic caloric foods that contribute to the nations #1 cause of death - heart disease. Where are these memos? They are non existent. Ash Williams should be fired not because he signed on, but because he signed on but didnt have the balls to tell the truth. This is targeting guns, and gun rights. Its selectively choosing one issue and sending a message through investment funds to gun manufacturers to do what exactly we dont know. Ash is probably out when the new Administration comes in but this is absurd.

So the desire to make sure the value of gun manufacturer stocks are worth more is somehow anti gun?

are you suggesting the pensions desire to ensure a gun manufacturer's stock is worth more money, is somehow an anti-gun effort?

Will you repeat your question in the form of a coherent question? WTF does that mean? The SBA is the arm of the state that managers investments for pensioners. It has a duty to maximize returns to its shareholders. It has certain parameters within American laws that constrain its ability to maximize (ie no pot companies, no Hamas/Iranian investments, no buying Venezuelan government bonds) . To the extent it sticks its neck out on political issues, it should only do so if backed up by the law, or by a reputable study of systemic corporate risk of a stock. This was a political letter. Getting involved in gun safety is political when you dont get involved in the other risks I outlined above. Its a selective take on one risk being pushed by Mike Bloomberg's anti gun group. Ash Williams never consulted with his principles before signing onto this.

There are more than laws that dictate what the pension does, but ensuring companies that the pension owns are worth as much as possible is not a "political issue" and is addressed every year through proxy voting and engagement. That is expected. Plus, not one comment on this story against the effort can point to one effort that impacts an individual's right to own a gun. Sorry, until I see it, I won't go off the deep end calling for people's jobs, especially when everything - especially in this story - points in the opposite direction. And don't give me the "I've been around long enough to know" crap... I've been IN the know long enough...

Business Risk is only one of many risks all good investors should consider when evaluating stocks. If you are an Apple iPhone, Apple Watch, Apple product fanatic, and based on a particular metric related to dual class stocks, the state pension votes against the stock structure of Apple... is that a political move because the pension is attacking your beloved Apple?

Common sense, a trait only sporadically encountered at any level of government.

Oh, I see...If you cannot get rid of guns because of the 2A, then you try to back-door legislate by putting "Pressure" on firearms manufacturers. This started in Kalifornia through the California State Teqchers' Retirement System, West Sacramento. We all know about how educated that state is when it comes to firearms. This, "Principles for a Responsible Civilian Firearms Industry" is rife with backdoor gun control The coalition's Principles for a Responsible Civilian Firearms Industry are: Manufacturers should support, advance and integrate the development of technology designed to make civilian firearms safer, more secure and easier to trace. THAT'S EXISTING JOB OF ATF/FBI Manufacturers should adopt and follow responsible business practices that establish and enforce responsible dealer standards and promote training and education programs for owners designed around firearms safety. NRA HAS SHOULDERED THIS RESPONSIBILITY SINCE ITS' INCEPTION Civilian firearms distributors, dealers and retailers should establish, promote and follow best practices to ensure that no firearm is sold without a completed background check in order to prevent sales to persons prohibited from buying firearms or those too dangerous to possess firearms. BACKGROUND CHECKS ONLY WORK ON LAW-ABIDING CITIZENS, NOT CRIMINALS Civilian firearms distributors, dealers and retailers should educate and train their employees to better recognize and effectively monitor irregularities at the point of sale, to record all firearm sales, to audit firearms inventory on a regular basis and to proactively assist law enforcement. ATF ALREADY DOES THIS MONTHLY. JUST ASK YOUR LOCAL GUN SHOP Participants in the civilian firearms industry should work collaboratively, communicate and engage with the signatories of these principles to design, adopt and disclose measures and metrics demonstrating both best practices and their commitment to promoting these principles. AGAIN, ALREADY DONE BY ATF/FBI The genesis of the principles was a May decision by the CalSTRS investment committee to make engagement with companies that manufacture and sell firearms that are illegal in California a top corporate governance priority, said CIO Christopher Ailman in an interview. The sad reality from strictly a monetary standpoint is this; Democratically-led presidencies are GREAT for the firearms industry. Stock prices, handgun, rifle, and ammunition prices soar to new heights. Just research what prices were of common firearms during 2008-2015. So, if we're REALLY talking about making money in investment portfolios, let's be honest; gun stocks soar during Democrat's reign and crash during GOP elections.

Well said, Sir!!

Gun manufacturers have always acted responsibly, there seems to be an implied threat it this statement. Do you ask Hospitals, Pharmaceutical, and Medical Device manufacturers to act responsibly? Have you demanded Energy Producers to act responsibly? So why even consider this stance. The Gun Manufacturers are constantly under a microscope. Perhaps the Pension Fund Managers should act responsibly.

I will ask it another way for the slower liberals who read this blog. Did the SBA warn Facebook on handling sensitive personal information before the company admitted breaching the confidence of its users, and the stock crapped the bed? The answer is no. It didnt. This take on guns is 100% political.

Brilliant response. Thank you!

Most large money managers do through their governance programs. I'd be surprised if the state's pension doesn't.

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