Steve Poizner, California’s insurance commissioner, has ordered
341 insurance companies licensed in the state to dispose of all
shares they hold in companies that have connections with Iran.
Poizner’s demand follows an instruction he issued six months ago to
all California-licensed insurers to declare their interests in
“As a result of this probe, insurance
companies have reported $12 billion in investments in companies
that do businesses with the Iranian energy, nuclear, banking and
defence industries, said Poizner.
Out of 1,327 insurance insurers licensed in
California, 1,111 complied with Poizner’s disclosure demand. He is
to subpoena a representative sample of the 216 insurers to explain
why they did not respond and pursue actions to ensure the other 206
companies supply data.
The California Department of Insurance’s (CDI)
next step will be the issue of a list of companies doing business
with Iranian energy, nuclear, banking and defence industries.
According to the CDI, many of the companies
are based in South America, China, Russia and Europe.
They include German technology conglomerate
Siemens, the world’s biggest offshore oil and gas company, Statoil
of Norway, Brazilian oil giant and Latin America’s largest company,
Petroleo Brasileiro, and Total, one of the world’s six-largest oil
The two largest investment categories are
banking ($6.2 billion) and energy at ($4 billion).
Following the release of the list of
companies, insurers will have 30 days to notify the CDI that they
will comply with the divestment request. Insurers will have 90 days
to eliminate the holdings from their portfolios.
The CDI will also make public a list of
companies that do not voluntarily agree to divest and provide the
names and value of their Iran-related investments. If, after
publication of the list, an insurer still refuses to divest
details, Poizner stressed he will take all legal action to force
Insurers will be watching carefully to see if
Poizner’s example is followed by regulators in other states.
Whatever the case, Poizner, a frontrunner to become California’s
governor in 2010, has set a precedent.