Dozens of investors say North Carolina bathroom law 'bad for business'

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) - Nearly 60 U.S. investors who together manage more than $2 trillion in assets called on North Carolina on Monday to repeal a law they said is making it harder for companies in the state to hire top talent by limiting protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans gender people.

A protest sign on a bathroom which helped lobby for the first gender-neutral restroom in the Los Angeles school district is seen at Santee Education Complex high school in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Under the law, enacted in March, North Carolina is the only U.S. state to require that transgender people use bathrooms in publicly owned buildings that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate.

The measure, known as House Bill 2, also bars local non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.

The money managers’ criticism comes as the push for civil rights for transgender people has gained momentum in the United States. After North Carolina passed its controversial law, major sports organizations, entertainers and companies pulled events or jobs from the state in protest.

In their letter, the investors said the law was undermining the stable business climate needed for sound investment. The group, led by Trillium Asset Management and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, said they represent a wide swath of the investor community and $2.1 trillion in total assets under management.

“Quite simply, H.B. 2 is bad for business and investors do not support legislation that limits discrimination protections and hampers the ability of our companies to offer open and productive workplaces and communities,” the letter said.

Matthew Patsky, chief executive officer of Trillium, an investment management firm with an office in Durham, North Carolina, said state lawmakers should repeal the law before the economic damage becomes irreversible.

“North Carolina has written discrimination into state law,” he said. “The unintended consequence has been a backlash that is having material, negative impact on the economy of the state.”

Other signatories of the letter include executives from Morgan Stanley Investment Management, John Hancock Investments and the treasurers of Rhode Island and Connecticut.

North Carolina’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, a supporter of the law who is in a tough campaign for re-election in November, has blamed his political opponents for the ongoing fallout from H.B 2. He says it should be left to the courts to decide whether to allow transgender people to use restrooms that match their gender identity.

“For New York hedge fund billionaires to lecture North Carolina about how to conduct its affairs is the height of hypocrisy,” McCrory’s campaign said in a statement, which linked to a New York Times article from January about problems with New York City’s pension system.

Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Leslie Adler