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Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement Fund lost $3M in selling investment in Russian bank

Sberbank saw its shares fall 95 percent this week after the bank announced it was pulling out of the European market.
People stand in line at a Sberbank ATM
People stand in line at a Sberbank ATM in Moscow on Monday.Ramil Sitdikov / Sputnik via AP file

The Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System lost more than $3 million last week in selling off its direct investment in a Russian bank the day before Russia invaded Ukraine, the pension fund said in a statement Friday.

The retirement system had invested $15.6 million in Russia’s Sberbank, beginning in March 2017, and sold its shares for $12.4 million on Feb. 23, the statement said.

Sberbank, Russia's largest lender, saw its shares fall 95 percent this week after the bank announced it was pulling out of the European market. That announcement came as the U.S. and its allies have increased sanctions against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, roiling the Russian economy.

The retirement system issued its statement after social media reports surfaced that it was the “second-largest shareholder” of Sberbank and that its investment had been reduced to less than $1 million.

The retirement system called those reports “completely false.”

“From March 2017 until the final sale on Feb. 23, 2022, TRS invested $15.6 million with $12.4 million returned for a loss of $3.2 million,” the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) of Kentucky said in a statement. 

The pension system said its holding was “in an over-the-counter, American-exchange portion of Sberbank known as an American depositary receipt” and that it was a small piece of the overall “Sberbank capital structure.”

“TRS’s remaining exposure to holdings in Russia is proportionately negligible in a portfolio of about $26 billion,” the statement said.

Allison Ball, the Kentucky State treasurer, said in a statement Thursday that as a trustee of the Teachers’ Retirement System board, she was aware that the system "does not currently hold any direct holdings in Russian companies but maintains a foreign investment portfolio that includes minor Russian investments. The Kentucky Employees Retirement System and County Employees Retirement System have direct and indirect Russian investments.”

Ball said she strongly urges divestment "from all current Russian holdings.”

“Any individual holdings of pension funds should also be divested through best efforts as soon as possible,” she said.

Officials in other states, including Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia and Washington have ordered reviews to determine if any state money is going to Russian companies or investments supporting the Russian government, according to The Associated Press.

In Connecticut, state Treasurer Shawn Wooden said this week that more than $218 million worth of state pension fund investments will be divested from Russian-owned assets in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to NBC Connecticut.