Pension Fund blacklists four companies after Danwatch investigation

Sarah Scheer Pedersen
Sarah Scheer Pedersen
The financing of illegal settlements and extraction of natural resources from occupied Palestinian territories leads Danish pension fund Sampension to exclude four companies from their investment portfolio.

The third largest pension fund in Denmark, Sampension, excludes four publicly traded companies from their portfolio. The blacklisting happens after Danwatch in January this year, in the investigation Business on Occupied Territory, documented that Sampension is the Danish pension fund that has invested the largest sum of money in companies doing business in or around the illegal Israeli settlements. The Danwatch-investigation has lead the pension fund to revise its investment guidelines, the fund stated in a press release dated 2. October (Links to Press Release in Danish).

All of the four companies are excluded for violating Sampension’s new guidelines for investments in occupied territories.

”Based on our new policy we have reviewed whether or not there are companies in our portfolio which are listed in Vigeo Eiris’ BIOL-database (Business in Occupied Lands)”, explains director of investments in Sampension, Henrik Olejasz Larsen, in the press release.

“The result of our review is that two Israeli banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, as well as Heidelberg Cement and Bezeq, has been placed on our list of excluded companies due to the financing of settlements, and the extraction of natural resources and establishment of infrastructure for telecommunication on occupied territory”, the press release states.   

Six more companies are being examined

Last week the organisation Human Rights Watch documented that Israeli banks are violating the human rights of palestinians, as well as international law, through their financing of new infrastructure projects that cement the occupation of Palestinian territory.

Investments in the occupied territories are problematic also because Danish investors are undermining both Denmark’s and the EU’s official policy of supporting a two-state solution as a solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Sampension had invested a total of 400 million Danish kroner in Israeli and international companies with activities in settlements on the West Bank when Danwatch investigated the investments in January this year.

Then, Sampension stated that they had no specific investment policy for the occupied territories, but that all of their investments must respect human rights, no matter where the companies are doing business.

Today Sampension informs that they, apart from the four blacklisted companies, are also initiating a dialogue with an additional six companies about their possible business activities in the settlements.

See the full list of companies excluded by Sampension here.

Stays on occupied land

Sampension’s policy change does not lead to any immediate policy changes with other Danish pension funds who hold similar investments.

In a survey Danwatch has asked seven investment funds, who all held investments in banks operating on the West Bank when Danwatch investigated the matter in January 2017, if they plan to exclude or in other ways take action against the companies.  

Only three of the funds have replied to the survey - none of which have ended their investments in banks doing business on occupied land.

Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, confirms that they still hold investments in the two banks excluded by Sampension, Hapoalim and Leumi. In their latest investment portfolio made available to the public Danske Bank held 560.000 Danish kroner in Bank Hapoalim, and 930.000 Danish kroner in Bank Leumi.

They do not intend to keep an extra eye on the Israeli banks operating on the West Bank.

“We do not have a specific investment policy towards Israeli companies, but all companies we invest in have to comply with our internal guidelines for responsible investments, Robert Bruun Mikkelstrup, assistant director for Investment Risk and Implementation in Dansk Bank, says in an e-mail.

Neither Nordea has ended their investments in the banks, but they have initiated a dialogue.

“We have been in dialogue with the relevant banks about their investments in occupied territories, and we will include aspects of Human Rights Watch’ framework in our future dialogue with the banks. Depending on the results of this dialogue, we will consider our future investments”, states both Nordea Liv & Pension and Nordea Invest.  

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