Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pension funds weigh options from BP stock collapse

The exasperation with BP felt by residents of the Gulf states is spreading to shareholders — and some are taking the oil giant to court.

Unlike the across-the-board Wall Street meltdown of 2008 that swept away hundreds of billions of dollars, the damage to U.S. pension plans caused by one plunging stock is minimized by the diversification of their investments.

Last month, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli pledged to sue BP, alleging the company misled investors about its safety procedures and its ability to respond to an oil spill and therefore inflated the stock's price in violation of securities laws.

DiNapoli's office plans to file a motion to join four individual shareholder suits filed in Louisiana and California to form a class action, under which all shareholders, including other pension plans, could join.

Other pension funds, including the $96.7 billion Teacher Retirement System of Texas, the $47 billion Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System and the $8 billion Louisiana State Employees Retirement System say their BP holdings represent only a tiny fraction of their total investments. None would say what their next action might be.

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