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Divestment as an ESG Tool: CalPERS and Tobacco Stocks (A)
Evans, Richard B.; Yemen, Gerry; Kellett, Michael Case F-1948 / Published June 4, 2020 / 22 pages.
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Product Overview

This case uses the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) to set the stage for unfolding an analysis of economics and values in the decision to divest tobacco stocks and bonds from the internally managed portion of the CalPERS portfolio. Written from public sources, it offers a discussion about fiduciary responsibility for long-term retirement security and investment policies around environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies for the public pension fund. The material includes financial data that further allows calculations and discussion on tobacco investments outperforming the broader market. This A case opens with the CalPERS investment committee having made a decision to recommend removing tobacco investment restrictions. The CIO reflects on whether supporting investment in tobacco firms conflicts with CalPERS's member health and health care mission. Did supporting continued divestment mean CalPERS was putting its own social priority and ideals ahead of its clients' investment goals? The case data should lead most to conclude the fund was breaching its fiduciary duty.


Learning Objectives

(1) Examine the nature of investment and obligations of a pension fund to its members. (2) Develop an appreciation for evaluating investment strategies. (3) Explore how public asset management firms make investment decisions. (4) Understand the tension that exists between earning better returns and support for ESG.

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  • Overview

    This case uses the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) to set the stage for unfolding an analysis of economics and values in the decision to divest tobacco stocks and bonds from the internally managed portion of the CalPERS portfolio. Written from public sources, it offers a discussion about fiduciary responsibility for long-term retirement security and investment policies around environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies for the public pension fund. The material includes financial data that further allows calculations and discussion on tobacco investments outperforming the broader market. This A case opens with the CalPERS investment committee having made a decision to recommend removing tobacco investment restrictions. The CIO reflects on whether supporting investment in tobacco firms conflicts with CalPERS's member health and health care mission. Did supporting continued divestment mean CalPERS was putting its own social priority and ideals ahead of its clients' investment goals? The case data should lead most to conclude the fund was breaching its fiduciary duty.

  • Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    (1) Examine the nature of investment and obligations of a pension fund to its members. (2) Develop an appreciation for evaluating investment strategies. (3) Explore how public asset management firms make investment decisions. (4) Understand the tension that exists between earning better returns and support for ESG.