Six months after launching a national divestment campaign against manufacturers of so-called assault weapons and “high-capacity” ammunition magazines, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio announced on July 22 that eight hedge funds and money managers have completely divested their holdings in publicly traded gun and ammunition companies, to the tune of $150 million.
In addition, his website (advocate.nyc.gov) claimed that 14 more firms have scaled back their gun investments by 7.4 million shares, or 27% of their holdings.
In the aftermath of the December 2012 Newtown, CT, school shootings, many of these hedge funds and money managers initially expanded their gun holdings, deBlasio claimed. But through an online hub at (WallStreetforChange.com) and public protests, de Blasio mobilized pressure against investments that he said “sustained the gun industry’s status quo and helped fuel the National Rifle Association’s efforts to stall gun control legislation.”
“We weren’t going to let business-as-usual stand after Newtown. We put investors who were quietly propping up the gun lobby on notice, and we’ve proven that public pressure can be a game-changer,” said de Blasio. “This is by no means over. The NRA used its money and political influence to distort the debate in Washington. We need to break its stranglehold on the legislative process by continuing to bring pressure on its biggest financial backers.”
The website claims that de Blasio’s partners in the divestment campaign plan to build on this momentum and announce their next targets in the coming weeks.
This divestment campaign is in addition to the one previously reported by TGM being conducted by public pension funds—the Sandy Hook Principles—managed by MSCI. That effort so far seems to have targeted foreign firearms-related firms. (More details on the pension fund money pressure effort launched by the Mayor of Philadelphia are available in the August issue of the TheGunMag print edition, currently in the mail to subscribers and newsstands.)
Just who is de Blasio to push an anti-gun agenda more quietly than Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the financial and media capital of the US? De Blasio, currently the Public Advocate for the City of New York, the city’s second-highest elected official after the Mayor, is one of 12 candidates in the Democrat primary to pick a candidate for the 2013 mayoral election. Not surprisingly, his political biography places him in close company with a number of other noted anti-gun politicians.
While he began his public career in New York City government as an aide to Mayor David Dinkins, during the Clinton Administration, he was appointed Regional Director for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), where he served under former Secretary Andrew Cuomo, now governor of New York. In 2000, he managed Hillary Clinton’s successful campaign for US Senate. The next year he joined the New York City Council, having been elected to represent District 39 in Brooklyn.
As Public Advocate, de Blasio reportedly has been a force for greater accountability and transparency in city government and as a strong advocate for improved police and community relations, fighting against the city’s excessive use of the controversial “stop-and-frisk” program.
The July announcement reduces the number of hedge funds on de Blasio’s online watch list (wallstreetforchange.com) to 14 and brings the number of money managers to 21. Each of the firms listed by de Blasio holds shares in at least one of three publicly traded gun product manufacturers—Smith & Wesson Holding Company, Sturm, Ruger & Co., and Olin Corporation, manufacturer of Winchester ammunition. The website claims the firearms industry remains one of the NRA’s biggest financial backers citing a claim by the Violence Policy Center that firearms manufacturers provided nearly $40 million in funding to the NRA over a five-year period, but not mentioning that most of that is for advertising in NRA publications .
Eight firms targeted by de Blasio earlier this year sold all of their gun stocks—nearly 5 million total shares—valued at roughly $150 million. Among them:
•AGF Investments Inc. sold 956,250 shares of Sturm Ruger stock, valued at more than $43 million;
•Tiger Global Management, sold 800,000 shares of Sturm Ruger stock, valued at more than $36 million;
•Impala Asset Management, sold 346,252 shares of Smith & Wesson and 547,686 shares of Sturm Ruger, valued at more than $27 million;
•Owl Creek Asset Management, sold 1,616,300 shares of Smith & Wesson, valued at more than $13 million;
•Valinor Management, LLC sold 270,179 shares of Sturm Ruger stock, valued at $12 million;
•Citadel Investment Group sold 98,617 shares of Sturm Ruger and 137,097 of Olin Corp, valued at more than $11 million;
•Highside Capital Management sold 251,807 shares of Sturm Ruger stock, valued at more than $11 million, and
•Coghill Capital Management sold 86,000 shares of Sturm Ruger stock, valued at $4 million.
In spite of this disinvestment report, recent share prices for all three companies targeted have been relatively stable during trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
According to de Blasio’s website, 14 other firms have decreased their gun shares, but retain some holdings, including: Renaissance Technologies; AQR Capital Management; Algert Coldiron Investments; Royce & Associates; Tudor Investment Corp; Bank of New York Mellon; Lord Abbett & Co.; Morgan Stanley; Prudential Financial, Inc.; Acadian Asset Management; AJO, LP; Allianz Asset Management AG; Ameriprise Financial, Inc., and State Street Corp.