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Dutch funds invest in ‘cluster bombs and land mines’ - TV claims

NETHERLANDS - Dutch pension funds have invested nearly €230m in American companies that also produce cluster bombs and landmines, current affairs programme Zembla has claimed.

According to the programme aired on Sunday night, Dutch pension funds invested around €229m in 2006 in several US firms that produce cluster bombs. Also, money has been put into firms that use child labour, it alleged.

Another €59m were invested in companies that produce landmines, it was said, this is despite the fact that Dutch government has signed an international treaty against landmines.

"Cluster munitions are contemptible armaments", said Roderick Munsters, chief investment officer at the €210bn pension giant ABP, though he did not rule out investments in companies that produce them: "We do not have any guidelines which forbid us to invest in such firms," he told Zembla.

Though funds generally do not publish details of which companies they invest in, according to the programme, ABP invests in seven American companies that have cluster bombs in their produce, for example.

Hans Alders, chairman of the board of governors at the €81bn pension scheme PGGM, said on the programme: "We do not wish to invest in companies who are with more than 50% reliance on the weapon industry," but then conceded that PGGM invests for instance in Textron, 20% of whose operations is dedicated to the produce of weapons such as cluster bombs.

Chairman of the board at the €11.1bn Spoorwegpensioenfonds (SPF) pension scheme for railway workers, Eelco Nikkels said in the programme that his fund does not exclude any firms in advance,  including  "weapon producers."

In addition to these three pension funds, Zembla also named the Dutch fund of Shell, the chemicals firm DSM scheme and the Nedlloyd pension fund as investors in cluster bomb and land mine manufacturers. None of the funds responded to IPE's request for comment today.

A Shell-spokesman told IPE last week that it is Shell's policy to screen companies in which the fund wants to invest very carefully.

VB, the Dutch Association of industry-wide pension funds, came out with a statement yesterday, in which it said that industry-wide pension funds are large players in the financial playing field, who do take their social responsibilities seriously.

"Many pension funds have formulated a policy for social responsible investing, which they try to implement on a daily basis as good a way as possible. But it is not always easy, as there are world-wide thousands of firms involved," said the VB.

ABP released a statement today in which it said that it would extend "the broad examination already implemented with two equity portfolios with a combined value of €22bn", which also take into account the environment, rights of employees, and rights of shareholders.

According to Dutch MP Staf Depla, member of the Dutch labour party PvdA, this is not enough. He pleaded on his website on Sunday for full transparency, as happens in Norway, for example. According to Depla pension funds should be obliged to publish a list of all firms in which they invests.

Other politicians, among who Krista van Velzen of the Socialist Party, called for an ethical code, as already exists in Norway. The Dutch Green Party today said it favours a black list of firms in which pension funds should not invest.

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