Monday, January 14, 2013

Bill de Blasio targets finance firms investing in gunmakers

City advocate wants 12 major financiers of weapon manufacturers to retract funding following Newtown, Conn. school shooting, the latest in a series of killings using assault weapons.

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 BlackRock Inc. has been targeted by City Advocate Bill de Blasio for producing assault weapons that have been used in mass killing.

Bloomberg

BlackRock Inc. has been targeted by City Advocate Bill de Blasio for backing assault weapon manufacturers

Here is the money behind the guns. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has compiled a list of what he calls New York's "Dirty Dozen" — the city's 12 biggest corporate investors backing gun manufacturers. Now he's demanding they disarm.
On Monday, he's beginning a campaign aimed at pressuring the 12 investors to divest themselves from companies that sell military-grade weapons and ammunition to civilians. 
"The days of quietly condoning business as usual are over," de Blasio told The Daily News. "We're pulling back the curtain." His office is creating a site online that will allow people to check if their IRAs, 401 (k) plans or mutual funds are invested with any of the "Dirty Dozen." 
De Blasio - who is running for mayor - laid out his reasoning for the campaign in letters to each of the 12 corporate investors, demanding, "Wipe your hands of this destructive industry." 
"The tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn., has forced a national debate on gun control. But as we consider necessary legislation, we cannot leave other tools unused to force the gun industry to reform its practices," he wrote. "A decisive action by shareholders can fundamentally alter industry practices including the manufacture of military grade weapons for the civilian market and the dangerous legislative agenda promulgated and financed by the gun industry. Responsible shareholders can no longer be a party to these practices." 
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Cerberus Capital Management announced it would sell the country's largest gun company, Freedom Group, which produced the weapon used in the Newtown, Conn. school shooting.

The 12 investment companies singled out by de Blasio held more than $1.5 billion in gun company stock as of September, according the most recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission reviewed by his office. 
The so-called Dirty Dozen include hedge funds like Renaissance Technologies, and large mutual fund companies like Black Rock. 
BlackRock is No. 2 on the list, with $345.8 million in gun-company investments, according to de Blasio's office. Renaissance Technologies is No. 4 on the list, holding $79.5 million in shares of gunmakers Smith & Wesson Corp., which produced the M&P15 used in the Aurora, Colo., theater rampage, and Sturm, Ruger & Co., the maker of the Mini-14 semi-automatic weapon used by Anders Breivik to slaughter 69 people, mostly teenagers, in 2011 in Norway. 
BlackRock spokeswoman Lauren Post said in an e-mail, "We invest on behalf of our clients. Any stocks in the companies you outlined are included in certain major stock indexes (Russell, FTSE, etc) and therefore are held in passive index funds." 
A spokesman for Renaissance Technologies declined to comment. 
No. 1 on the list is the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, which announced in the days following the Newtown shooting that it would sell the country's largest gun company, Freedom Group. The gunmaker produced the Bushmaster firearm that Adam Lanza used in the Newtown massacre which killed 20 elementary school kids and six adults. 
Cerberus will come off de Blasio's list when the sale's complete, de Blasio said. 
Adam Kanzer, managing director of Domini Social Investments LLC, a mutual fund company which only invests in companies that it considers socially responsible, said other investment managers too often select investments "without even thinking" about the consequences. 
"They're simply pushing a button and an algorithm is making a decision for them," he said. 
And as a result, millions of Americans people are putting their hard-earned dollars into the gun companies through mutual funds and 401k plans. 
"There are consequences for allocating billions of dollars to companies that are producing dangerous products and then selling them through retail channels," Kanzer said. "Those companies take a portion of their profits and funnel it over to the NRA."  
With Erin Durkin
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