On Tuesday afternoon, Bloomberg was surprised to learn that as it was going through the 2,416 equity investments of the Florida state pension plan, which amount to over $37 billion in market cap, it found a surprising entry: 41,129 shares in American Outdoor Brands (valued at a meager $528,000, including $306,000 in unrealized profits) according to a Dec. 31 securities filing listing the plan’s holdings. The company, formerly known as Smith & Wesson, is the market of the semiautomatic AR-15 assault rifle that was used in the Valentine’s Day shooting on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
In other words, as Bloomberg puts it, “as Florida teachers grieve over the mass shooting that left 17 students and colleagues dead last week, some of them may be surprised to learn they’ve been helping fund the firearms industry—including the company that made the gun used that bloody Wednesday.”
In addition to American Outdoors, the filing showed that the Florida Retirement System Pension Plan also invested in gun company stock issued by Sturm & Ruger, Vista Outdoor and Olin Corp. All of these companies manufacture firearms or ammunition, including assault rifles.
We expect that these holdings will be liquidated promptly in the aftermath of the highly politicized shooting, and that the anticipation of said liquidation is why AOBC tumbled 5% today.
Students at the school who escaped have been calling for gun control measures on social media and in news interviews all day Tuesday, and were scheduled to attend a gun-safety reform rally Tuesday in Tallahassee, the state capital, hosted by the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. The Florida State Board of Administration, or SBA, which manages the teachers’ pension fund, is also based there.
“As fiduciaries, the SBA must act solely in the interest of the participants and beneficiaries,” John Kuczwanski, a spokesman for the agency, said in an emailed statement. “As primarily passive investors, we essentially own the entire market subject to any legal limitations.”
True, but that does not matter: after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, in which 26 elementary school students and teachers were gunned down, CalSTRS and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System sold off their stakes in both Sturm Ruger and Smith & Wesson.
The same will take place over the coming days as the political scandal over the Parkland shooting peaks, and numerous pension systems seek to put pressure on gunmakers by dumping their stock.
Tangentially, speaking of passive investors owning the “entire market”, one wonders when the “central bank” that is the Swiss National
Hedge Fund Bank will decide that its ownership of tens of billions in FAANG stocks is starting to have a pronounced market impact.
The good news for the Florida pension fund is that its sale of AOBC shares will hardly have an impact on its P&L, or the market; meanwhile its top holdings – like of most other pension funds – remain the 4 megatechs: AAPL, MSFT, AMZN and FB. And until the tidal wave of anti-monopolist/media resentment is unleashed, they have little to worry about.