JERUSALEM (AP) -- A U.S. investment firm has removed Caterpillar Inc. from three of its popular indexes that track socially responsible investments, citing concerns about the Israeli military's use of company bulldozers in the Palestinian territories.
The decision by the American investment-support firm MSCI Inc. was welcomed Wednesday by pro-Palestinian groups that have called for boycotts of companies that profit from Israel's occupation of the West Bank. It has already had at least one concrete effect, leading mutual fund giant TIAA-CREF to divest itself of $72 million in Caterpillar stock from its "Social Choice" fund, which tracks one of MSCI's indexes.
In a statement, MSCI said one of the "key factors" in Caterpillar's downgrade was "an ongoing controversy associated with use of the company's equipment in the occupied Palestinian territories." It also citied employee safety concerns, environmental issues and a January 2012 plant closing in Canada.
The decisions by MSCI and TIAA-CREF, both made in March, were only recently disclosed in their latest quarterly reports.