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Make TIAA-CREF Ethical Coalition
Media Release: For Immediate Use


Contact: Al Norman, Sprawl-Busters: 978-502-3794
              Josh Golin, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood: 617-896-9369

Group Asks Pension Fund To Drop Wal-Mart, Coke Stocks

(Boston) A coalition of activists in Massachusetts is asking the nation's largest pension fund, TIAA-CREF--a retirement fund with $300 billion in assets, mainly for educators--to divest its stock in Wal-Mart and Coke “for the greater good.”

The “Make TIAA-CREF Ethical” (MTCE) Coalition will be passing out $20 “Walton Bucks” in front of the pension fund’s Boston office at 28 State Street on Monday, July 11th at noon, along with “Killer Coke” dollars. The Wal-Mart bucks feature the face on S. Robson Walton, the Chairman of Wal-Mart’s Board of Directors, with a message on the back urging TIAA-CREF to drop its stock in the giant retailer. The Killer Coke dollars will describe how Coca-Cola’s marketing practices have contributed to an epidemic of childhood obesity.

The MTCE charges that a pension fund which prides itself on being responsive to shareholders and a "concerned investor" with regard to social responsibility, has no business investing in ethically-challenged companies like Wal-Mart and Coke.

As of January 1, 2005, TIAA-CREF held 23,108,470 shares in Wal-Mart, which had a value at the time of roughly $1.22 billion. Yet Wal-Mart has been internationally criticized for its exploitation of sweatshop labor in Third World countries, its harmful environmental and land use practices in the United States, its abusive labor practices with its own workforce (forced work off the clock, sexual, racial and disability discrimination) and its war against small town quality of life.

TIAA-CREF is also a major investor in Coke and even includes the company in its Social Choice accounts. The Coca-Cola Company has come under increasing fire for its human rights and environmental abuses overseas and for marketing nutritionally deficient products to children in the U.S. Despite their claims that they do not advertise to children under twelve, Coke designs toys for young children, markets their products extensively in schools to children of all ages, and its product placement is ubiquitous on programs like American Idol, one of the top-rated shows for children. Coca-Cola also lobbies extensively against policies - such as prohibitions on vending machines in schools - that would help combat childhood obesity.


“Exploiting children’s health for profit is not a social choice,” said Josh Golin from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “It’s time for TIAA-CREF to use its considerable financial clout to pressure Coca-Cola to end all marketing to children.”

“We shouldn’t have to teach the teacher’s fund,” added Al Norman of Sprawl-Busters. “Wal-Mart has no place in a socially responsible investment portfolio.” Norman predicted that Wal-Mart stock will continue to take a hammering for its socially unacceptable behavior across the U.S., Mexico and other nations—and thus is a bad investment for the pension fund anyway.

Make TIAA-CREF Ethical is a national coalition that urges the pension giant to divest of shares in corporations involved in human rights violations, and public health and environmental degradation, and instead invest in socially responsible ventures. In Massachusetts, Sprawl-Busters and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood are part of the national MTCE coalition. The Boston event is a run-up to TIAA-CREF’s Annual Meeting in New York City on July 19th, at which the MTCE will be holding events inside and outside the TIAA-CREF headquarters in Manhattan.


 

 
 

 

 

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