Swedish pension fund pulls out of Wal-Mart

The 195 billion kronor Swedish second national pension buffer fund, AP2, has withdrawn its bond and equities investments in Wal-Mart Mexico, claiming the firm breaches human rights.

The Swedish fund’s move to offload bond and equity securities worth 200 million kronor follows the Norwegian Government Pension Fund’s decision to end its investments in the retailer in June, also citing employee rights concerns at the world’s largest retailer.

“Dating from 2003, the Second AP Fund has written letters, exercised its voting rights at AGMs and participated in an investor group to influence the company, but the company has failed to indicate any change in its attitude to employee rights,” AP2 said in a statement.

The fund cited evidence gathered by the Norwegian Council on Ethics, which acts as an advisor to the Norwegian State Pension Fund.

According to the council’s recommendation last November: “An extensive body of material indicates that Wal-Mart consistently and systematically employs minors in contravention of international rules.”

The report also argued that working conditions at many of Wal-Mart suppliers were “dangerous or health-hazardous.”

Runar Malkenes, spokesman for the Norwegian Finance Ministry, which is responsible for the Government Pension Fund, Told Thomson Investment Management News: “When other funds, like the Swedish pension fund (AP2), follow our decision we see it as a recognition of the fact that our decisions are based on thorough and solid work.”

Eva Halvarsson, AP2’s CEO, said: “Wal-Mart has so many documented incidents concerning the infringement of norms, both within its own operations and throughout its supply chain that, in our opinion, the existence of an inherently unethical system is placed beyond all reasonable doubt.”

Rosen said AP2 is currently in talks with other companies on corporate governance and ethical issues, but stressed the fund saw divestments as a last resort when negotiations come to no fruition.

Wal-Mart was not available for comment.