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 financial company had sold its shares in the Israeli company as a political protest.
A TIAA-CREF spokesman confirmed to The Algemeiner 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 that SodaStream shares were in its portfolio as of July 15, 2013, the last date it could disclose.
The spokesman did however say that there was an element of truth in the BDS claim, adding that it was also, ultimately, inaccurate. As of the fund’s first quarter filing on Mar 31, 2013 , Soda Stream shares had been sold by the TIAA-CREF Mid-Cap Growth fund. Within the second quarter, Soda Stream shares were bought by another portfolio, the TIAA-CREF Growth & Income Fund, which continues to hold the shares as of July 15. Meanwhile, an institutional fund called the General Account that invests for the TIAA-CREF Traditional Annuity product, and only reports its holding once a year, was ignored by the BDS campaign, as that 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 the SodaStream shares were sold to protest against Israel in the international financial community. The Campaign claims it is a national, coalition-led initiative which includes member groups such as 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.
Because of the many teachers, public sector and union employees who entrust their pensions to the company, TIAA-CREF has become a target of the BDS movement, which hopes to sway their pension holders against Israel. But the fund manager has fought back to the approval of many Jewish investors in its products.
In May, TIAA-CREF won a ruling with 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.”