US Pension Funds Invest Billions in Chinese Firms, Stoking National Security Concerns

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Recent actions by Republican lawmakers have called attention to the willingness of top U.S .pension funds to invest in Chinese companies that may have ties to the regime in Beijing and may play a role in enhancing the regime’s military and surveillance capabilities.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and two GOP colleagues, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) sent a letter on April 6 to President Joe Biden’s four nominees to serve on the board of the Federal Thrift Retirement Investment Board (FTRIB), the primary pension fund for government employees, requesting that they pledge not to invest funds in Chinese firms that may undermine U.S. national security.

Rubio also placed a hold on the confirmation of the nominees pending such assurances.

But such an effort aimed at blocking U.S. investments from potentially aiding the Chinese regime and its military is but one step out of many others that should be taken, including Congressional action and cultural shifts within pension fund investing, say longtime observers of the U.S-China trade and investment.

In their letter, Rubio and colleagues said they were “deeply concerned” by FTRIB’s historical willingness to “invest federal employees’ retirement savings into China-based companies, including firms involved in the Chinese government’s military, espionage, human rights abuses, and aggressive industrial policy designed to undermine U.S. industry.”

They explicitly called out the FTRIB’s decision in 2017 to shift the index used for its international stock investment fund to the broader MSCI All Country World ex-U.S. Investable Market Index, which comprises 99 percent of the global equity market. That index is 7.5 percent weighted toward Chinese firms.

In response to pressures from lawmakers and the Trump administration, the FTRIB in 2020 backed off from making this move, but did not allay concerns about its willingness to invest in Chinese firms in the future.

By Michael Washburn

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Rubio, Tuberville, Cotton Ask Biden Nominees to Protect Federal Employees’ Retirement Funds From Chinese Firms

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), and Tom Cotton (R-AR) sent a letter to four of President Joe Biden’s nominees to serve on the Federal Thrift Retirement Investment Board (FTRIB) requesting that they commit to withholding the retirement savings of U.S. service members and other federal employees from Chinese firms that undermine U.S. national security. Rubio placed a hold on all four nominations pending confirmation of that commitment. 

“We are deeply concerned by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board’s (FRTIB) history of voting to invest federal employees’ retirement savings into China-based companies, including firms involved in the Chinese government’s military, espionage, human rights abuses, and aggressive industrial policy designed to undermine U.S. industry,” the senators wrote. “The FRTIB’s previous actions have demonstrated a willingness to invest American retirement savings into Chinese companies working to undermine U.S. interests and national security, as well as exposing federal employees’ retirement savings to considerable risk. This cannot be allowed in the future.”

The full text of the letter is below. 

Dear Mr. Gerber, Ms. Bilyeu, Ms. Olivares, and Ms. Bridges:

We are deeply concerned by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board’s (FRTIB) history of voting to invest federal employees’ retirement savings into China-based companies, including firms involved in the Chinese government’s military, espionage, human rights abuses, and aggressive industrial policy designed to undermine U.S. industry. The FRTIB’s previous actions have demonstrated a willingness to invest American retirement savings into Chinese companies working to undermine U.S. interests and national security, as well as exposing federal employees’ retirement savings to considerable risk. This cannot be allowed in the future.

We have repeatedly voiced our concerns with the FRTIB’s 2017 decision to change the Thrift Savings Plan’s (TSP) International Stock Fund, or the “I Fund,” to mirror the MSCI All Country World ex-U.S. Investable Market Index. In 2020, after considerable congressional pressure, the FRTIB announced that it had “deferred” the I Fund’s transition to a new benchmark index. Today, the fund continues to mirror the MSCI Europe, Australasia and Far East (EAFE) Index. Had the planned transition taken place, China would be receiving the third-most investment of any nation in the fund, potentially exposing billions of dollars in federal employee retirement assets to risks associated with many of the Chinese companies included in the index.

We write asking for your commitment to protect federal employees’ savings and the national security of the United States. In particular:

  • Do you commit to ensuring that the TSP’s I Fund does not mirror the MSCI All Country World ex-U.S. Investable Market Index?
  • Do you commit to ensuring that no sums in the Thrift Savings Fund are invested in any security that is listed on an exchange in a jurisdiction in which the PCAOB is prevented from conducting a complete inspection or investigation of a registered public accounting firm under section 104 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 because of a position taken by an authority in that jurisdiction, as determined by the PCAOB?
  • Do you commit to voting to ensure that no federal employee retirement funds go to any Chinese firms that undermine U.S. national security?

We look forward to your prompt reply. 

Sincerely,

Biden Doesn't Have Americans Best Interest At Heart