Lawmakers Want Feds to Have Socially Responsible Retirement Investment Options

Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I. Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I. Alex Brandon/AP File Photo

Federal employees and retirees should be able to invest their retirement savings in socially responsible companies, according to a new bill proposed by a group of Democratic lawmakers.

The Federal Employees Responsible Investment Act, sponsored by Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., in the House and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., in the Senate, would require officials who administer the Thrift Savings Plan to create a “corporate responsibility index” as an option in which TSP participants could invest.

“I strongly believe that federal workers should be able to invest in companies that demonstrate a commitment to sound environmental, social and governance practices,” Langevin said. “This legislation would allow federal employees to feel good about their investments, and would encourage companies to implement socially responsible and environmentally sustainable policies and practices.”

A 2012 Government Accountability Office report , however, found adding such an option would not provide any long-term benefit to the TSP. While the socially responsible investments would offer the short-term advantage of providing participants “an opportunity to invest in accordance with their values,” GAO said other benefits were “unknown” and the option would not provide any additional portfolio diversification.

Meg Fraser, a spokeswoman for Langevin, noted the GAO report also showed a hypothetical corporate responsibility offering would have outperformed at least one current TSP fund, and would have performed only marginally worse than several others.

The board that oversees the federal retirement plan has not embraced previous attempts to regulate TSP investments to better align with social and moral concerns. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board has said bills such as the 2007 Iran Sanctions Enabling Act -- introduced by then-Sen. Barack Obama to require divestiture of companies that do business in countries supporting genocide and terror -- would not be in the best interest of participants.

"As the board members, we are responsible only for the participants' best interest, not for the best interest of the United States," Andrew Saul, then-chairman of the board, said at the time. "You're not wearing the hat of a United States citizen; you're wearing the hat of a fiduciary for the plan."

Fraser said Langevin’s office will “continue to have discussions with TSP officials regarding their concerns." Despite what apprehension may persist, Whitehouse said federal employees should have the opportunity to use their collective voice for good.

“Across America, more and more people are calling on institutions to use their investments to send the message that they do not support big polluters, and that they care about issues like climate change,” Whitehouse said. “This legislation will allow millions of federal government employees and retirees to send that same message -- to use the power of their individual purse to tell big polluters they can’t keep poisoning our air and water without consequences.”

In addition to companies with positive environmental records, Whitehouse and Langevin’s corporate responsibility index would invest in businesses with strong workplace relations, a commitment to community involvement and a demonstrated respect for human rights. 

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.