NC Treasurer requests Congress allow states to pursue economic damages against Russia

NC pension has around $80M tied to Russia out of $118.2B in total holdings

The New York Stock Exchange is seen in New York, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. U.S. markets pointed toward a sharply lower open, following a global plunge and a surge in oil prices Thursday after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched military action in Ukraine, prompting Washington and Europe to vow sanctions on Moscow that may roil the global economy. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

RALEIGH — On March 9, N.C. State Treasurer Dale Folwell issued a statement asking Congress to amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) of 1976 so that state pension funds can pursue economic damages against Russia through U.S. courts.

“Amending FSIA language to provide state pension funds with greater legal mechanisms to more easily recoup economic losses is a crucial step to impose serious financial consequences on the Russian tyrant, diminishing his ability to fund his evil war,” Folwell said. “We need to punish Putin and his cronies for pension and investment losses. North Carolina taxpayers and those who teach, protect and otherwise serve should not suffer that burden.” 

The financial dollar tag Folwell cites is just under $80 million. 

“As of Feb. 25, the Department of State Treasurer had minimal securities in its international equity portfolio that are domiciled in Russia, with just under $80 million or just 0.067% of the plans’ total holdings of $118.2 billion,” according to Folwell’s press release. 

The release also says the Supplemental Retirement Plan portfolio has “about $12 million in exposure or 0.077% of that plan’s $15.5 billion in holdings, all within the international equity and index funds.” 

“We stand with the Ukrainian people in their desperate hour of need, and demand that Putin be punished severely for his war crimes,” Treasurer Folwell said. He believes heightened economic pressure can help bring an end to the atrocities and loss of life.

Folwell also called on the General Assembly to issue a resolution regarding the Ukraine-Russia situation. The call was heeded and on March 10 House legislators unanimously passed HR 981 condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin for his military aggressions against Ukraine. The resolution, in part, urges Congress to amend FSIA. It also underscores support for U.S. troops deployed to Europe as well as the need for the U.S. to take steps to increase domestic energy production.

“I am deeply grateful that our elected representatives took a stand of solidarity with the people of Ukraine, who are suffering a humanitarian crisis and loss of innocent civilian lives due to the brutal war crimes of Putin,” Folwell said in a statement about the resolution. “It is comforting to know that in a time of political rancor when there are those who try to divide us, North Carolinians can unite under a righteous cause to stand up and be counted.”

According to the treasurer’s office, Folwell’s FSIA ask has garnered support from the State Financial Officers Foundation and both of North Carolina’s U.S. Senators, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr.  

In a statement Folwell said that other state treasurers have been reaching out to him about the proposal.   

Almost a dozen states have moved to divest their pension funds from Russia in the last week, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  

The nation’s two largest pension funds, California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) combined hold upwards of $1.5 billion in Russian investments. 

About A.P. Dillon 659 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_