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Florida pension fund loses $200M in Russian investments, state rep. says

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In the intervening months since Russia invaded Ukraine, oil prices have risen, inflation has increased, and the state of Florida has reportedly lost millions due to investment in Russia. Even before the losses, Florida Democrats had urged the state to divest itself from the money it’s invested in Russian companies.

Now, Democrat Andrew Learned (D-Brandon) says the state’s pension fund has lost $200 million from its investments in Russia, following sanctions on the country due to the war. The state reportedly has $300 million invested in Russia-based companies.

“Florida’s Retirement System LOST over $200m in our Russian Investments after refusing to divest our holdings when I called for it over two months ago,” Learned tweeted. “Turns out, backing Putin and his war crimes in Ukraine wasn’t just bad for freedom, it was a bad investment too.”

Shortly after the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and other state lawmakers requested that Gov. Ron DeSantis formally end the state’s involvement with Russian businesses through the state’s pension fund.

In March, Learned proposed an amendment to the state’s appropriation bill, which is still under review by DeSantis, to divest the funds. That amendment failed, and Learned criticized his Republican colleagues for their lack of action.

“Reminder: still crickets from Florida GOP about divesting our Russian investments,” Learned tweeted at the time.

However, the issue of divestment is complicated. As previously reported, Florida’s investments in Russian companies are managed by the State Board of Administration. The Florida SBA operates as an investment fiduciary, and before any decision to invest or divest is made, the board must review the funds. By law, the SBA is controlled by the governor, alongside the state’s Chief Financial Officer and Attorney General, Jimmy Patronis and Ashley Moody, respectively.

When reached out in March to ask the governor’s office about the divestment push, they said the review process was underway.

“The SBA has been reviewing investments in Russian domiciled entities,” according to the Governor’s Office. “Any decisions will be announced after the SBA has concluded its review.”

In the tweet thread from Learned on May 3, the Brandon lawmaker said that not only had Florida’s pension fund lost $200 million due to its investments in Russia, the state had actually “increased its holdings in Russia from June to December during the runup to war.” By comparison, Learned said Florida has just $80,000 invested in Ukraine.

Learned shared a document from the Florida SBA showing the dollar amounts of what’s invested from Florida’s pension plan funds, split by country. Separately through a GoogleDoc made public by the Brandon congressman, the Russia-specific values were specified.

The document reports the state pension fund had lost $200,722,906.45 in assets invested in Russian companies. It’s also worth reporting that the state’s investments in Ukraine had also lost $20,485.77.

8 On Your Side has reached out to the Florida SBA for verification of the amounts and documents shared by Rep. Learned, as well as the governor’s office for a status check on the divestment review process.