Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement System has invested millions of dollars in an Israeli spyware company connected to multiple human rights violations, as well as a pair of private prison companies responsible for operating immigrant detention centers.
In 2017, Novalpina Capital, a London-based private equity firm, received $233 million from the Oregon Investment Council. This year, the firm purchased a majority share in Israeli cyberarms company NSO Group, creator of the notorious spyware, Pegasus. According to Amnesty International, the program has been used to eavesdrop on at least 24 human rights defenders, journalists and parliamentarians in Mexico, three Saudi dissidents, an award-winning human rights campaigner in the United Arab Emirates, as well as one of AI’s own employees.
Pegasus has also been implicated in the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Novalpin co-founder Stephen Peel has stated the intent to “establish a new benchmark for transparency and respect for human rights in full compliance with the U.N. Guiding Principles.”
However, in an interview with OPB, Likhita Banerji, adviser for technology and human rights at AI, said Peel was attempting to “whitewash violations,” and that Oregon should be more socially conscientious in its investments.
Another $2 million in pension money went to prison companies GEO Group and CoreCivic, which run immigrant detention centers in California, Florida, Texas, and New Mexico.
This runs counter to Oregon’s status as a well-known sanctuary state.
“I feel that owning these stocks is an insult to many Oregonians, and an insult to our values as Oregonians,” said Portland attorney Pamela Quinlan.
The investments are part of an index fund, said the Oregon State Treasury Department, and attempting to remove them would ultimately be detrimental to the pension fund. Treasurer Tobias Read said in a statement “Does this mean [we] are insensitive to and/or unconcerned with the various social and political challenges? No.”
By Brandon Urey