October 4, 2018

New analysis: Comptroller DiNapoli cost New Yorkers over $22 billion for refusing fossil fuel divestment

With NYS Comptroller’s office mired in controversy, New Yorkers escalate call for fossil fuel divestment

New York, NY — The New York State Common Retirement Fund could have been $22 billion richer if the fund divested its fossil fuels stocks 10 years ago, according to a new analysis released today by research and media firm Corporate Knights. That works out to more than $19,820 for each of the fund’s 1,122,626 members and retirees, an amount that would have covered more than 30 percent of the costs from 2012’s climate change fueled Superstorm Sandy.

This comes one week after WNYC investigative reports revealed an egregious potential conflict of interest in the pension office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The WNYC report showed former CIO Vicki Fuller left her position at New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office in July, and then immediately assumed a $300,000 director position with Williams Pipeline Company after increasing state investments in the company to $160 million. Over 30 groups are demanding an investigation of the alleged conflict of interest from the NYS Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE).

“By refusing to divest from fossil fuels, the Comptroller DiNapoli is deciding to be on the wrong side of history, and it’s costing New Yorkers billions in foregone profits,” said Richard Brooks with 350.org. “DiNapoli need look no further than New York City for real climate leadership: cut investments in dirty coal, oil and gas companies and invest in real climate solutions.”

To date, 988 institutional investors representing $7.17 trillion in asset have committed to some level of fossil fuel divestment, a more than 120-fold increase from four years ago, according to the fourth Global Fossil Fuel Divestment and Clean Energy Investment Movement report by Arabella Advisors released during the California-based Global Climate Action Summit.

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Toby Heaps, CEO of Corporate Knights, an investment and media research company, said: “Our analysis reflects that the energy transition is happening faster than investors expected. Those responsible for safeguarding pension assets now need to ask themselves if they believe this transition is over or just beginning?”

Joseph B. Uehlein, Founding President of the Labor Network for Sustainability, and Voices for a Sustainable Future. Joe is the former secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Department and former director of the AFL-CIO Center for Strategic Campaigns, said: “This analysis shows that investments in fossil fuels carry high risk for our retirees and have led to significant financial losses for public employee pensioners. In addition, these investments imperil our planet, which is already experiencing climate chaos and is staring down the corridor at climate catastrophe, which will further destroy jobs, impact the markets and our pension funds, overwhelm government recovery efforts and expenditures and hurt all working people. Fiduciary responsibility should require divestment from these risky and dangerous investments. You work your entire life, contributing to either defined benefit plans or 401k’s, and you rightfully expect that money to be there when you retire.”

John Ingram, 350NYC, said: “The Corporate Knights report more than anything shows the rising volatility of fossil fuels. Once the foundation of portfolios, fossil fuels are now investments full of risk in an industry rapidly falling and with no future. In this setting, a parallel risk is the degree to which these assets, pooled like oil in complex funds, have no fast hand to bail them out. Get out now before a match is struck.”

Clara Vondrich, Director, Divest Invest, said: “Comptroller DiNapoli is ceding his moral authority, only to underperform financially. It’s time to follow the lead of New York City and London: Divest from fossil fuels and invest in climate solutions.”

Michael Johnson, a member of New York Communities for Change (NYCC) from Coney Island, said: “I lost everything in Sandy when the waters rose up in a storm made stronger by  climate change. It makes no sense for New York State Comptroller DiNapoli to be putting billions into companies that are causing this climate crisis, and that’s especially true since they’re bad investments too.”

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Contact: Lindsay Meiman, 350.org, lindsay@350.org, (347) 460-9082

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