UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) has written to the 82 Local Government Pension Scheme Chairs in England and Wales, to warn them that a UN Rapporteur is unlawfully interfering in the management of their pension funds.
Michael Lynk, the UNHRC’s Special Rapporteur “on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967”wrote in November 2021 to the Chairs of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) Committees, urging them to divest from all companies on UNHRC’s database of businesses allegedly carrying out certain activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem “if the company cannot give a clear assurance that it has removed itself entirely from the settlement economy” (see previous story HERE )
Mr Lynk had targeted the LGPS as it manages the pensions of over 6.2 million members for 16,300 employers.
Pension Committee Chairs have welcomed UKLFI’s letter, which points out why relying on Michael Lynk’s claims would be illegal.
One Councillor said “I have been very concerned at the involvement of certain organisations in the Local Government Pension Scheme ( LGPS), regarding what seems to be a political campaign on the Israel/Palestinian situation. …. I have a feeling that the Lynk letter and certain other actions such as those in LGPS, are linked to the rise in antisemitic incidents. Clearly this is very distasteful, to say the least. I will be opposed to any attempt to impose political will on LGPS, and will be monitoring the situation carefully. Anything UKLFI can do to inform, will be useful.”
Another said that when he received Mr Lynk’s letter he thought it was none of Mr Lynk’s business and that his Council is constantly being pestered by people asking them to divest and then claiming victory if there is any disposal when it is for purely financial / commercial reasons.
Another Councillor commented: “I have previously rejected similar emails.”
UKLFI’s communication explained to the LGPS Committee Chairs that Mr Lynk’s letter, and any further interventions he has made since then, are illegal. UKLFI pointed out that Mr Lynk has gone way beyond his mandate, in writing letters to local government pension funds in England and Wales. His mandate from the UNHRC is to investigate Israel’s (supposed) violations of international law and report to the UNHRC. It does not include reporting to local authorities or pension funds in individual states, still less making polemical interventions in their operations. Nor does it include investigating alleged violations by businesses.
Mr Lynk’s letter contained extensive allegations against Israel and against companies which he said are “heavily invested in the thriving settlement economy”. However, he did not give Israeli representatives any opportunity to respond to the allegations before he sent it and did not even inform them that he had sent it.
UKLFI noted that the UNHRC’s Code of Conduct for Special Rapporteurs requires them to ensure that the concerned government authorities are the first recipients of their conclusions and recommendations concerning their State, that they are given adequate time to respond, and to indicate fairly the responses given by the concerned State. However, none of this was done.
UKLFI’s Chief Executive, Jonathan Turner, commented: “The local government pension scheme committees and managers should not regard Mr Lynk’s letter as having any official authority. It contains serious misrepresentations. Any investment decision influenced by his intervention, supposedly in his capacity as a Rapporteur of the UNHRC, will be challengeable on the basis of error of law, taking into account irrelevant considerations, failure to act with due skill, care and diligence, and breach of fiduciary duties.”