November 19, 2009 / 7:36 PM / 10 years ago

Sudan divestment measure fails at Putnam funds

BOSTON, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Shareholders of two funds run by Putnam Investments on Thursday became the latest to reject measures that urged divestment of investments in oil companies doing business in Sudan.

Royalty payments the oil companies make to Sudan’s government, sponsors of the measures said, help fund human-rights abuses, particularly in the country’s western Darfur region.

Backers that included Boston-based Investors Against Genocide pushed the measures as a way to pressure China-based oil companies including PetroChina Co Ltd (601857.SS) and Sinopec (600028.SS).

The proposals were defeated by 24 percent to 50 percent of votes cast at Putnam’s Growth Portfolio fund, and by 21 percent to 53 percent at its Voyager Fund, according to company figures released after a shareholder meeting in Boston on Thursday.

The results mirrored similar votes that have taken place at larger fund firms this year, including Fidelity Investments and Vanguard Group Inc.

Eric Cohen, chair of Investors Against Genocide, said the totals showed steady investor support for divestment, especially since Putnam had opposed the ballot question rather than take a neutral stance as the group had urged.

John Hill, chair of the Putnam trustees who spoke at the meeting, said the investments were legal and that such policy questions are best left for governments rather than companies like Putnam to decide.

Other fund companies have made similar arguments. The next vote is scheduled to be held at American Funds on Nov. 24.

Putnam is a unit of closely held Power Financial Corp (PWF.TO) of Canada. Putnam representatives said few of its funds currently own the disputed shares. (Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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