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ICYMI: Rubio to TSP Board: Reverse Short-Sighted, Foolish Decision to Steer Federal Retirement Savings to China
Financial Times: US government pension fund urged to reverse China investment
By James Kynge and James Politi
August 26, 2019
Senior US senators are demanding that one of America’s biggest government pension funds reverse a decision that is set to channel billions of US dollars into funding Chinese companies that they say support Beijing’s military, espionage and domestic security efforts.
The demand shows how the US-China rivalry, which has thus far focused mainly on trade war tensions, is spreading further into the arena of financial markets.
Senators Marco Rubio, a Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, told Michael Kennedy, chairman of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, in a letter that his fund is supporting Chinese state-owned companies with “the paychecks of members of the US Armed Services and other federal government employees.”
The letter — a copy of which was seen by the Financial Times — said an impending investment shift by the FRTIB would mean that about $50bn in US government pensions becomes exposed to the “severe and undisclosed” risks of being invested in selected Chinese companies.
The letter, dated August 26, was copied to senior US officials including Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, and Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary.
“The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board made a short-sighted — and foolish — decision to effectively fund the Chinese government and Communist party’s efforts to undermine US economic and national security with the retirement savings of members of the US Armed Services and other federal employees,” Mr Rubio told the Financial Times.
“The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board should publicly reverse this decision immediately,” added Mr Rubio.
The FRTIB did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr Rubio, a senior member of the Senate foreign relations committee and a China hawk, has led a push against Chinese companies with ties to the country’s intelligence and military. Ms Shaheen is on the Senate armed services committee.
The FRTIB manages about $578bn in assets in its Thrift Savings Plan and has some 5.5m participants, ranking as one of the US’s largest retirement funds.
Under a 2017 decision to change its investment strategy, a key portfolio is set to be shifted next year into the MSCI All Country World ex-US Investable Market Index, a benchmark index that includes several controversial Chinese companies.
“This controversy should send an unmistakable message to Wall Street and other fund managers and index providers that henceforth the material risks associated with Chinese corporate national security and human rights abusers must be taken into proper account,” said Roger Robinson, president and chief executive of RWR Advisory Group, a Washington-based risk consultancy.
Read the rest here.