Council promoting no smoking invests pension fund cash in second tobacco firm
PUBLISHED: 09:27 06 June 2018
A Suffolk council, which came under fire after investing millions of pounds from the pension fund in tobacco firms despite promoting stop smoking messages, has bought stocks in another cigarette company, it has emerged.
Suffolk County Council had £22.4million in British American Tobacco investment from the pension fund’s holdings as of December last year.
At the time, it was 0.8 per cent of the fund’s holdings, but came under fire from Ipswich MP Sandy Martin – who was Labour leader at the county council for eight years before being elected to Parliament – as well as public health officials who were running campaigns to quit smoking.
Latest figures published for the county council’s pension fund committee revealed that the British American Tobacco investment was now worth £16.2m – 0.6% of the fund and the fourth largest sum behind Royal Dutch Shell, Microsoft and Ferguson.
But Suffolk County Council yesterday confirmed that after one of its investment managers sold around 25,000 stocks – 6pc – it was reinvested in another tobacco firm, Altria.
A spokeswoman said: “This is not a pension fund committee decision, the pension fund committee cannot put restrictions on their investment managers.
“This 6% has been put into another tobacco company, Altria.”
Mr Martin said that the public health team, central government and health services were all helping people to stop smoking, which made the council’s investment “ridiculous”.
He said: “Investing in tobacco companies may be beneficial in the short term but in the long term it’s a fools game.
“It’s time for not just the county council but the whole public sector to disinvest itself from tobacco stocks.”
Andrew Reid, chairman of the Suffolk pension fund committee, said: “The pension fund committee is mindful of its ethical duty and has previously taken appropriate legal advice.
“Having access to this legal advice, performance data concerning relevant shares and market performance and based on the risks concerning pension performance, it is not appropriate to consider disinvestment in tobacco at this time.
“The Suffolk pension fund will continue to monitor this and gives its managers full discretion to choose their own stocks.”