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Indiana retirement system divests over $100M in Russian investments

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A former state lawmaker on Friday said even a symbolic divestment from Russia is a smart move.

Four days after Russian forces invaded Ukraine, Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered the state to review its finances for any possible ties to Russia. His order specifically instructed the state retirement system to see if any of its investments involved the Russian ruble or any Russian-owned or -affiliated companies. The same order directed the Department of Administration to review state contracts and the Commission on Higher Education to review program and grant funding for public colleges and universities.

On Friday, a spokesperson for the state retirement system told News 8 officials had identified $147.4 million of known Russian-related investments as of Feb. 28. Officials said they are no longer investing in Russian securities and are working to divest the ones they already had.

Former state Sen. Jim Merritt, who receives state retirement benefits due to his service as a Republican in the General Assembly, said he was very surprised by the amount the state had invested in Russian assets.

“When you look at oil, you look at wheat, Russia does play a role in the world economy,” he said. “And so I’m sure (the retirement fund) was very conservative with this, but I’m really glad that $147 million has been moved.”

State data show the Russian securities accounted for a fraction of the retirement system’s total assets. As of the end of fiscal year 2021 on June 30, the system had a little more than $55 billion in investments. Merritt said Indiana’s divestments by themselves won’t make much of a difference but the symbolism alone is worth it.

“It’s just another signal that they’re watching this very closely,” he said.

The Commission on Higher Education said it found no Russian funding for programs or grants at any of Indiana’s public colleges and universities. The Department of Administration said it is still reviewing contracts to see if the state buys any goods or services from Russian-owned or -affiliated companies.