Pension fund giant TIAA is investing its clients’ funds in farmland and agribusinesses tied to environmental and human rights abuses in Latin America.
Indigenous communities displaced from their land by the expansion of agribusiness in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. ( Photo by Cristiano Navarro)
If you are in U.S. academic, research, medical, or cultural fields, your assets are likely managed by pension fund giant TIAA(formerly TIAA-CREF). Though frequently neglected, pension funds constitute the largest sector of the financial industry. TIAA is among the 100 largest corporations in the United States, serving over five million active and retired employees from more than 16,000 institutions.
During the past decade, TIAA has become the largest global investor in farmland and agribusiness, accumulating over 1.6 million acres worldwide. In Brazil, TIAA is accused of evading national laws restricting foreign investments in farmland, a charge corroborated by both the New York Times and National Public Radio. In Guatemala, TIAA-linked investments are denounced as contributing to environmental destruction and human rights violations in palm oil operations according to a recent report in the New Yorker.