Fossil Fuel Backer Brownstein Hyatt Advises PERA on Fiduciary Duty & Fossil Fuel Divestment

As a debate flared up earlier this year over whether Colorado’s public pension system should divest from climate-warming fossil fuels, the system’s board was confidentially advised on divestment policies by its legal counsel — which also happens to be a major law and lobbying firm for the oil and gas industry.

At a September board meeting in Colorado Springs, the trustees of the state’s Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) held a “Divestment Education Session,” which included a closed-door presentation by two partners at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, the Denver-based lobbying giant whose clients include a long list of major fossil fuel corporations. Brownstein has served as fiduciary counsel to PERA’s board of trustees since 2011.

The presentation followed a petition circulated in August by PERA members and the environmental activist group 350 Colorado that asked the board of trustees to outline the steps it has taken to guard against climate-related financial risk and urged the pension system — which manages the retirement savings of over 500,000 current and former public employees — to sell off its more than $780 million in fossil fuel-related assets.

“We believe divestment from fossil fuels is not only morally right — but also in line with fiduciary responsibility,” the petition reads. “We call on PERA to divest from fossil fuels, which will protect our pensions and show bold leadership in investing in our future.”

To read the full article by Chase Woodruff, click here.

Deb McNamara