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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Regional
Review / DEVELOPMENTS IN ORANGE, RIVERSIDE, SAN BERNARDINO
AND VENTURA COUNTIES

Retirement Fund Will Not Divest Tobacco Stocks

August 22, 2000

VENTURA COUNTY — Despite a performance dip in the industry, the county will not divest its retirement fund of nearly $15 million in tobacco stocks, trustees of the Ventura County Employees Retirement Assn. voted Monday.

Supervisor Frank Schillo had pushed for the change, arguing that the stocks were a bad moral and fiscal investment.

His motion was defeated 6 to 2, buoyed by feelings that the decision could lead to a "slippery slope" of divestiture from all kinds of politically sensitive industries.

"The question is where do we stop?" asked board member Tracy Towner. "When you sit on a retirement board you have fiduciary responsibilities regardless of the political winds. We are obligated by that."

Anti-tobacco organizations called the decision shortsighted.

"It simply gives the tobacco industry cash money," said Janet Benner, director of the Tri-County Regional Team, an anti-tobacco organization funded by the state.

Other critics said it was hypocritical of the county to invest in an industry that has led to high health care costs.

In June, the State Teachers Retirement System voted to divest itself of tobacco stocks, 0.035% of its equity holdings. In addition, six states, several large cities and about 15 universities have chosen to divest tobacco holdings.

In the Ventura County fund, tobacco-related stocks account for 1% of the $2.3 billion in retirement funds.

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