NY bill seeks ban on companies investing in Iran

Reuters, Friday 28 Oct 2011

The draft bill is modelled on a similar California bill that prohibits commitment of funds or providing goods or services to any entity in Iran

Iranian President Ahmadi Nejad (Photo: Reuters)

Companies and individuals that invest in Iran's energy sector would be barred from doing business with New York state and its counties, cities and towns under a bill proposed by the state Assembly speaker.

States, local governments and private institutions should do "everything possible" to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, according to a draft copy of the bill proposed by Speaker Sheldon Silver, which cites Iran's "illicit nuclear activities" and work on "unconventional weapons."

The proposed bill is modeled after a similar proposal in California. New York has in the past tackled international issues by threatening to sell stakes held by its pensions in public companies.

An investment in Iran's natural gas, oil or nuclear industries is defined broadly in the draft bill, as "a commitment or contribution of funds or property, a loan or other extension of credit and the entry into or renewal of a contract for goods and service."

Individuals would be subject to the ban if they provide goods or services of at least $20 million or an individual "provides oil or liquefied natural gas tankers, or products used to construct or maintain pipelines used to transport oil or liquefied natural gas," according to the draft.

If enacted, New York's Office of General Services would have to review 50 companies that California has identified as possibly qualifying for such a curb.

The list includes heavyweight public and national firms: BHP Billiton, China National Petroleum Corp, Hyundai Motor Company, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Indian Oil Corporation, LUKOIL, Norsk Hydro ASA, Petroleos de Venezuela, Sinopec Corp and Total SA.

Past actions in New York in response to international issues include a demand decades ago by New York City's comptroller, who helps run the city pension fund, that public companies stop discriminating against Catholics in Northern Ireland.

The state comptroller in 2009 sold the $150 billion state pension fund's holdings in nine companies doing business in Iran and the Sudan. The draft of Silver's bill would not affect this pension fund.

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