Treasurer Magaziner: Rhode Island pension fund to stop investing in assault weapon manufacturers and private prison operators


Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner today announced that the State Investment Commission has voted to approve his proposal to pull pension fund investments in companies that manufacture assault-style weapons for civilian use or operate private for-profit prisons.

“Assault weapons and for-profit prisons have caused too much pain for countless Americans, including many Rhode Islanders,” said Treasurer Magaziner. “The State Investment Commission is taking this action after careful consideration. With today’s decision, we can do the right thing without impacting the health of Rhode Island’s pension system.”

Each year, 36,000 Americans die from gun violence, with mass shootings becoming increasingly frequent. The five deadliest mass shootings of the past decade all involved the use of assault weapons. Over that time period, when assault weapons were used in mass shootings, six times as many people were shot, as compared to mass shootings when there were no assault weapons.

The business model of the for-profit prison industry creates corporate incentives for increasing the number of people who are incarcerated and cutting costs at the expense of the health and safety incarcerated individuals and prison employees. Private prison companies have a monetary motivation to lobby for public policies that increase already high incarceration levels in the United States.

Rhode Island’s state pension system has less than $250,000 total invested in affected investments, representing 0.003 percent of assets in the $8.7 billion pension fund. After the shares of these companies are sold, the proceeds will be reinvested across the broader market.

Rhode Island is the fourth state pension system to drop its investments in private for-profit prisons, and also the fourth state to end its investments in the manufacture of certain firearms for civilian use.

The Rhode Island pension system earned 16.7 percent in the 2019 calendar year, outperforming the plan benchmark return of 15.0 percent for the same period. The fund has earned $2.3 billion since Treasurer Magaziner announced his “Back to Basics” investment strategy in September 2016.