TIAA-CREF, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund, which manages $520 billion on behalf of millions of teachers and other union members, confirmed on Thursday that, as of July 15, 2013, it held a significant stake in SodaStream International Ltd., denying claims from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that the fund manager had sold its shares in the Israeli company as a political protest.
A TIAA-CREF spokesman said that information provided in its second quarter filing of June 30, 2013, was accurate and that SodaStream shares were held during that period. The fund is prohibited by regulators to cite positions held within the past 30 days, but the spokesman was also able to confirm to The Algemeiner that SodaStream shares were still in its portfolio as of July 15, 2013, the last date it could disclose.
The spokesman said that while there was an element of truth in the BDS claim, it was also, ultimately, inaccurate. One TIAA-CREF fund, its Mid-Cap Growth fund, had sold its SodaStream shares as of its first quarter filing on Mar 31, 2013. But, within the second quarter, Soda Stream shares were bought by another TIAA-CREF portfolio, the Growth & Income Fund, which continued to hold the shares, as of July 15. Meanwhile, an institutional fund, called the General Account, which invests for the TIAA-CREF Traditional Annuity product and only reports its holdings once a year, was ignored by the BDS campaign: that TIAA-CREF portfolio has held its SodaStream shares continuously, including during the second quarter.
Last month, on July 15, the We Divest Campaign claimed in a statement that TIAA-CREF’s SodaStream shares were sold to protest against Israel in the international financial community. The Campaign said it was a coalition made up of support from other groups, including Adalah-NY, the American Friends Service Committee, Grassroots International, Jewish Voice for Peace, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and the US Palestinian Community Network.
TIAA-CREF, because of the many teachers, public sector and union employees who entrust their pensions to the company, has become a target of the BDS movement, which had hoped to sway their pension holders against Israel. But the fund manager has fought back to the approval of many Jewish clients of the New York City-based financial institution.
In May, TIAA-CREF won a ruling from the stock market regulator, allowing it to ignore BDS protesters who tried to hijack its annual shareholders meeting by insisting their anti-Israel claims be aired. In its brief, TIAA-CREF said the BDS proposal “attempts to embroil CREF in a highly controversial geopolitical dispute of enormous complexity where — unlike the Anti-Genocide Proposals [referring to the universally condemned situation in Sudan] — there is no broad consensus. United States companies are permitted to engage in business dealings in Israel and the West Bank. Indeed, the United States adopted laws designed to discourage and, in some circumstances, prohibit U.S. companies from furthering or supporting foreign boycotts of Israel.”
Readers of The Algemeiner whose pension funds are managed by TIAA-CREF expressed their approval and support of the company’s position.
“I am a US/Israeli TIAA-CREF member and was fearful that you might capitulate. I feel good that you understood your obligation,” E.S. Lombard wrote, directing his comment to the organization.
Reader Janet Truman wrote: “I have been a participating person with earnings contributing to TIAA-CREF for years while working at a university. I would not want to remain associated with any organization that boycotts Israel.”
“I have some funds deposited with this organization, and I am right proud of them taking a stand for Israel,” added a reader named David.