Governor Charlie Baker on Monday said state officials are reviewing thousands of contracts to determine whether Massachusetts is doing business with any Russian-based companies in the wake of the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
As other governors call on retailers to remove Russian products from their shelves, Baker said his administration is seeking to target companies that are “Russian in their origin,” adding that he, as well as legislative leaders, is wary of imposing orders that could hurt Massachusetts businesses.
He said his administration has only begun its search, and that he is still weighing the contours of a potential executive order targeting companies from Russia.
“I share the concern about shutting down some Russian immigrant family who’s been here in Massachusetts for years and runs a business that may have some sort of Russian overtone,” Baker, a second-term Republican, said at an unrelated news conference at the State House. “We’re absolutely taking a look at our contracts and trying to determine if in fact we do have opportunities . . . associated with those contracts that involve Russian companies.
“We do business with about 100,000 entities,” he added of the review. “It will take a little while.”
The $104 billion state pension fund has also reviewed its investments, and as of Friday, had roughly $140 million in “exposure to Russia,” such as assets, investments or companies that are Russia-based, officials said.
But Pension Reserve Investment Management officials said the amount is relatively small — it accounts for less than 0.2 percent of the total fund — and, according to the state treasurer’s office, any decision to directly divest from a certain industry or country would need to be done legislatively.
“While PRIM owns no currently sanctioned securities, we will continue to closely monitor the situation as we understand that the conflict has increased market volatility and geopolitical impacts remain unknown,” Michael G. Trotsky, PRIM’s executive director, said in a statement.
Senator Walter F. Timilty, a Milton Democrat, filed legislation that would require the state’s pension fund to divest from any company with active “commerce in any form in Russia,” targeting those that are not only based there but also do business in the country.
A letter being circulated Monday by the House Republican Caucus also called for action in divesting from any Russian-owned companies.
“President Biden, our European allies, and other nations have already taken a united stand by imposing broad economic sanctions against Russia for its hostile actions,” the letter reads. “It is time for Massachusetts to take similar action by refusing to financially support and profit off those companies whose values run contrary to our own.”
In the days since President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of neighboring Ukraine, leaders from various states have sought to target Russian products or companies, in effect adding to the restrictions and sanctions federal leaders have announced on Russian banks and technological exports to the country.
In New Hampshire, Governor Chris Sununu said Saturday he was ordering the removal of “Russian-made and Russian-branded spirits” from New Hampshire’s state-run liquor and wine outlets “until further notice.”
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine also ordered his state’s commerce department over the weekend to halt buying and selling of all vodka made by Russian Standard. And Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he’s asked restaurants, package stores, and others to “voluntarily remove all Russian products from their shelves.”
In Massachusetts, state Representative Patrick J. Kearney, a Scituate Democrat, filed a bill that would ban the purchase or consumption of “any and all product made in Russia” in Massachusetts.
But the appetite for such a move is unclear. Senate President Karen E. Spilka, appearing alongside Baker on Monday, sounded wary about pursuing broad restrictions, saying the state needs to be careful in cutting off small businesses that “may have a contact in Russia.”
“We don’t want to hurt them as well, especially when they have nothing to do with the political scene there and Putin and the oligarchs that are behind this invasion into Ukraine,” the Ashland Democrat said. “I think we need to be cautious as to what we do.”
Matt Stout can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.