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Online Climate Q&A with Oregon’s State Treasurer Tobias Read

Wednesday, May 5th; 7-8 PM

Thinking about the state treasurer’s job might put people to sleep, but when they realize how much money Tobias Read manages ($118 billion) it should jolt them awake. Add to that the fact that Read’s investment clout has the potential to help stop the climate change nightmare, and people might be abuzz all day.

With that in mind, on May 5, at 7 pm, 350PDX has organized an online Q&A with the state treasurer to wake the public up to their financial power, especially when that power is channeled and magnified through the state treasurer’s actions.

As the manager of the PERS retirement fund, Tobias Read not only decides where to invest the billions entrusted to him by state workers (like firefighters and teachers), he could also make multinational corporations lose sleep when he leverages his clout to push for the environmental and human rights protections that the public wants.

This Q&A session is also an opportunity for the community to remind Read about their clean energy and racial justice dreams.

Contact: Jenifer Schramm, jenifer@350pdx.org

Co-sponsors include:  

Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read has the power to fight the climate crisis by wisely investing the billions held in Oregon’s retirement funds and voting as a shareholder to reflect our values.  He has a seat at the table on climate policy at the largest U.S. corporations, and he should use it! 

As a major investor, the Oregon Investment Council, with Treasurer Read at its helm, votes for who will be on the boards of directors of most large companies as well as how funds will be managed/invested. Oregon needs to use this power to a much greater extent than it is at present. In May 2020, after lots of grassroots pressure, Treasurer Read was among 9 other state treasurers who voted to have Lee Raymond, the former CEO of Exxon and major climate crisis denier, removed from the Board of JPMorgan Chase. It worked, and reinforced the immense influential power that Treasurers can wield in the fight to hold those financing the climate crisis accountable. There is more work to be done by our state treasurer to be a climate champion.

Despite the growing urgency of the climate crisis, the finance industry continues to expand investments in and financing for fossil fuels and deforestation companies. Leading asset managers and state treasurers can play a critical role in pressuring companies to decarbonize with time-bound goals for reducing emissions. Their immense power is not widely understood. Grassroots activists are in a good position to lift up opportunities for their own state treasurer to create systemic change. 

Watch this recording of “The WOW (and HOW) of Shareholder Season: A Guide for Activists” to learn how our grassroots pressure can have an outsized impact on moving big corporations to protect human rights and to decarbonize meaningfully and rapidly.

State Treasurers Can Take a Stand!  How?

  • Make public statements
  • Sign on to letters
  • Vote their state’s shares during the Annual General Meetings of corporations for/against resolutions or  board members
  • Divest

FAQ for Oregon

  • Who’s my state treasurer and where can I find out more about him?  Tobias Read is the Oregon State Treasurer (bio here).  His office phone is (503) 378-4329.    His email is  oregon.treasurer@ost.state.or.us
  • When is Treasurer Read up for reelection? Read is term-limited; his term ends in 2024.
  • What body (pension fund board, investment committee, other, none) reviews investment performance? The Oregon Investment Council. And 4 of the 5 OIC members have voting privileges.
  • Does this body allow for public comment in meetings? Yes.
  • When are these meetings and what is the link for their agendas? Please refer to section ‘OIC Meetings, Agenda, and Details’ for details regarding upcoming meetings as well as previous ones.
  • How much does PERS make up of the Oregon Treasury?  PERS’ total assets in 2019 were $80 billion.
  • Does the Oregon Investment Council have a set of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies or other policies designed to address investments in environmentally-risky sectors? Yes, there is a Sustainable Investing page.
  • Does their policy include any mention of risks related to climate change? deforestation? To land rights risk? To scope 3 climate emissions? Indigenous peoples? Yes.  See the section Climate change is a growing concern for investors on the Sustainable Investing page.
  • Does the Oregon Investment Council specifically recognize climate risk as an investment factor, either in ESG policies or in public statements? Yes, ESG risks are briefly acknowledged in the first paragraph of page 3 of the Investment and Management Beliefs.
  • Does the Oregon Investment Council have policies oriented towards aligning investments with global norms? Yes, the Oregon Office of the State Treasurer is a Ceres Investor Network member and a Climate Action 100+ investor signatory.
  • Does the Oregon Investment Council conduct negative screening for any sectors, regions or issues, applied to any portfolios? Yes. Although it is hard to find centralized information, there have been directives asking for reducing/refraining from investment in Iran, Sudan, and the arms industry.
  • Does the Oregon Investment Council have a proxy voting policy? If so, any public information on recent votes regarding climate or human rights? Kind of.  See the section ‘Proxy Voting’ under ‘Engagement and shareholder action’ on the Sustainable Investing page. For important (but slightly outdated) information, see pages 5 and 6 of the Treasurer’s 2018 Stewardship Report. The Report provides recent (as of 2018) proxy voting data and also mentions that the Oregon Treasury has rehired Glass Lewis as a proxy advisory firm.
  • Has the Oregon Investment Council ever divested from a company, voted against directors, or taken any other significant action due to ESG concerns? Not found on the website. However, Oregon voted against JPMorgan Chase Lee Raymond.
  • What role do the “big three” asset managers play in Oregon?   BlackRock manages a portion of the assets of the Oregon State Treasury’s $1.7 billion Common School Fund.