(Reuters) – Republican senator Marco Rubio said on Monday he plans to introduce legislation to block U.S. government pension funds from investing in Chinese stocks after a fund delayed a decision about tracking an index provided by MSCI Inc
Rubio and a bipartisan group of senators have complained about specific companies included in the MSCI All Country World ex-U.S. Investable Market Index, which gives a 7.5% weighting to Chinese firms.
The U.S. lawmakers say the targeted companies “assist in the Chinese government’s military activities, espionage, and human rights abuses, as well as many other Chinese companies that lack basic financial transparency.”
They had called on the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) to reverse its decision to begin tracking the index for the Thrift Savings Plan’s (TSP) International Stock Fund.
Rubio’s office said in an emailed statement that the FTRIB had delayed its decision at a meeting on Monday, to reconsider the issue at a Nov. 13 meeting.
“Its clear the Board will not act in the best interests of the United States, reverse this misguided decision and protect our national interest, as well as those who serve it,” Rubio said in the statement. “That’s why I will be introducing bipartisan legislation to ensure that federal retirement savings can never be a source of wealth funding the Chinese Communist Party at the expense of our nation’s future prosperity.”
The TSP is a retirement savings plan for federal employees and members of the military. As of July 2019, TSP assets totaled around $599.5 billion.
MSCI is one of the world’s largest index providers, with trillions of dollars tracking its benchmarks. It previously responded to Rubio’s criticisms, saying there was no U.S. law prohibiting an index company from creating an index containing Chinese securities.
A FRTIB spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment, outside regular U.S. business hours.
(Reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru and Lawrence Delevigne in New York; editing by Jane Wardell)