As West Virginia enters the stock market for the first time, should the state's investment policy makers consider whether stocks the state buys are from "do right" companies? Or should the bottom line be the only consideration? It's an interesting question that goes to the heart of a debate the state needs to have now, before long-term investment policies are in place.
West Virginians approved their state investing in stocks last fall, after state officials successfully convinced them that by restricting investment to government bonds, the state's pension systems were losing millions in potential earnings.
Craig Slaughter, executive director of the state's Investment Management Board, told the Charleston bureau of The Associated Press that looking out for the pensioners is his top priority. Companies have so many subsidiaries today, he said, that it's impossible to determine if a firm is socially responsibile.
Thorton Cooper, an attorney for the state's Public Service Commission and an opponent of the constitutional change, says that the state shouldn't invest in companies that have interests in gambling, liquor, tobacco or with those that pollute the environment. We can accept his dislike of the first three, but the fourth might give an investment professional some problems.