NEW YORK—Some 411 banks, insurance firms, and pension funds have invested $402 billion in 28 companies involved in the manufacture, maintenance, and stockpiling of nuclear weapons, authorities at a conference on nuclear affairs heard.
Such weapons are now so powerful—up to 50 times as devastating as the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—that they represent a threat to all life on the planet, said Susi Snyder, Program Manager of PAX, the main civil organization in The Netherlands that works for peace. Snyder is also former Secretary-General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
“After all the financial scandals, crises and promises to act in a more responsible and transparent way, here is the evidence that these same financial institutions continue to make unethical investments, into weapons of mass destruction,” Snyder said.
Snyder spoke at a New York City conference on nuclear war and disarmament sponsored by the Helen Caldicott Foundation, of Asheville, N.C. The conference was held at the New York Academy of Medicine. In the past, Snyder has testified many times before U.S. congressional committees.
“The top 10 nuclear investors alone provided more than $175 billion U.S. dollars to the 28 nuclear weapons producers,” Snyder said.
With the exception of French BNP Parisbas, of Paris, all of the top 10 are based in the U.S. These are (in millions) State Street, of Boston, Mass.,28,493; Capital Group, of Los Angeles, $27,348; BlackRock,of New York City, $24,792; Vanguard, of Malvern, Pa., $21,926; Bank of America, of Charlotte, NC, $17,990; JPMorgan Chase, of New York City,$16,272; Citigroup, of New York City, $12,380; Evercore, of New York City, $11,176; T. Rowe Price, of Baltimore, $8,543. Investments by BNP Parisbas, came to $7,052.
Besides BNP Paribas, in Europe, the most heavily invested are Royal Bank of Scotland, and Barclays. In Asia, the biggest investors are Mitsubishi UF Financial, and the Life Insurance Corp. of India.
No financial institution should be involved with companies engaged in weapons of mass destruction as, in the case of a nuclear detonation, “the humanitarian consequences will last for decades and effective aid will not be possible,” Snyder said. “The only way to prevent this from happening is to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons once and for all. Stigmatizing these inhumane and indiscriminate weapons, and excluding them from investments, will help.”
Snyder continued, “Divestment makes it clear to companies that as long as they are associated with nuclear weapons programs, they will be considered illegitimate themselves and a bad investment.”
“Divestment by even a few institutions based on the same ethical objection can have a significant impact on a company’s strategic direction, as has been shown in the past.” Snyder said, “When it comes to nuclear weapons, any person with a bank account can use the power of their purse to oppose ongoing efforts to modernize nuclear weapons.”
A number of European financial institutions in Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, have policies banning any types of investment in any company associated with nuclear weapons,” Snyder noted.
The mission of the Helen Caldicott Foundation is to educate the public, the media, and public officials about the grave medical and environmental dangers inherent in nuclear power and the nuclear fuel chain, the manufacture and use of nuclear weapons, nuclear war, and climate change.
(Sherwood Ross is Media Consultant to The Caldicott Foundation.)