Saying they are concerned about human rights, board members of the American Bar Association have voted to stop investing ABA dues in corporations that do business in South Africa.
The action by the ABA's 33-member board of governors last week in Phoenix was urged by the association's law student division, according to ABA board member Howard Vogel, a Knoxville, Tenn., lawyer.
"I don't think South Africa is off the minds of anyone concerned about human rights," Vogel said, adding that the law student division wanted to expand on an earlier statement by the ABA House of Delegates condemning apartheid, Pretoria's system of racial separation.
About $8.5 million, or 16 percent of the ABA's $51 million in short-term investments, was in companies that held more than a 10 percent share of a South African company, subsidiary or facility, according to ABA spokesman Richard S. Collins.
At the end of last year, the ABA investments in companies operating in South Africa included American Express Credit Corp., Sigma Corp., Ford Motor Credit Corp., General Motors Credit Corp., ITT Financial Corp. and John Deere Credit Corp., according to Collins.
Most of the ABA's dues are invested in short-term notes issued by companies to help pay their bills, Collins said.
The ABA will stop investing in such companies during a two-year period by redeeming notes as they come due and investing the money in companies that do not deal with South Africa, Collins said.
Prior to approval of the resolution by the ABA board, the association's finance committee discussed and endorsed the law students' proposal.