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Michigan votes to disinvest from Russia. Doing so may be complicated

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Michigan’s pension systems have $98 billion in investments, and roughly 0.06 percent of that — or $58.8 million — is associated with Russian organizations, according to the state. (Shutterstock)

LANSING — Michigan Investment Board members on Wednesday unanimously agreed to pull pension plan investments from Russian companies as soon as the nation’s stock market reopens.

The decision followed a request from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who urged Michigan to cut financial ties with Russia as the country launched attacks on Ukraine, killing hundreds of civilians. At least 525 people have been injured and at least 227 have been killed by March 1, according to the United Nations Office of Human Rights.

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The investment board, which oversees Michigan’s pension investments, approved a resolution Wednesday stating Michigan will divest from Russian companies and “refrain” from future investments in light of the war “as soon as practical when market conditions allow,” according to a media statement.

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That means the state will begin divesting from Russia once stock trading in Russia resumes, said treasury spokesperson Ron Leix. The Moscow Exchange’s stock market has remained closed since Feb. 25, and it is unclear when it will reopen.

Michigan’s pension systems have $98 billion in investments, and roughly 0.06 percent of that — or $58.8 million — is associated with Russian organizations, according to the state.

There is also no guarantee of how long Michigan’s divestment from Russia will last. It could change based on “future market conditions, laws, regulations, rules, and legal or contractual obligations in applicable markets, exchanges, or local jurisdictions,” the resolution states.

Several other states and companies have also announced plans to disinvest from Russia or plan to do so, as a show of solidarity to Ukraine and part of a larger effort to hurt the Russian economy. 

Several analysts have noted that it’s easier said than done, and some lawmakers in other states have warned doing so would lock in losses for taxpayers.

In a letter last week to Michigan Treasurer Rachael Eubanks, Whitmer acknowledged Michiganders may be concerned about the impact of the war and sanctions on Michigan’s economy. She said she will monitor the economy and “protect Michiganders’ pockets and put Michiganders first.”

Michigan lawmakers are also supporting sanctions on Russia. Rep. Darrin Camilleri, D-Trenton, is sponsoring a bill that would add Russia to a list of countries under the Michigan Divestment from Terror Act, which would stop the flow of state funds toward Russia. 

Rep. Jeff Yaroch, R-Richmond, has urged Whitmer to order the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to stop buying Russian-made alcohol.

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