OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington State Investment Board has contracted with a top global security firm. The decision comes after a series of close calls involving employees on overseas investment scouting trips.
In recent years, Washington’s pension system has significantly diversified into emerging overseas markets. They include China, India, Brazil and countries in Africa. That means more trips to make sure the investments are not scams.
“You know the old thing you don’t buy beachfront property in Arizona?” quips Theresa Whitmarsh, Executive Director of the Investment Board.
She says travel to some of these places is riskier and her investment officers have had a series of scares. She wouldn’t comment on one incident in Southeast Asia described in state documents. It had the potential to turn into a kidnapping.
But she will talk about what happened in China. She says her employee had on a windbreaker with a logo that resembled the symbol of a group that’s been banned there.
“So he was actually detained on the spot. He wasn’t taken anywhere, but he was detained on the spot by military personnel and he was intensely questioned,” Whitmarsh says.
Ultimately he was released. But Whitmarsh says that incident served as a lesson that her investment officers need more cultural and security awareness in the countries where they operate.
So now, the Investment Board has signed a contract with Control Risks Group, a global security consulting firm. Whitmarsh says the company will advise the Investment Board on travel security and provide a blanket of protection when investment officers are in foreign countries.
“We could call them and ask them for assistance in any number of potential emergencies,” Whitmarsh says.
Whitmarsh won’t say if that includes extraction services to get an employee out of the country. But she does confirm Control Risks can provide a personal security detail if the situation warrants.
The $50,000 contract will be paid for out of Washington’s pension system, not the state general fund.
On the Web:
Control Risks Group: http://www.controlrisks.com/SitePages/Home.aspx
State Investment Board: http://www.sib.wa.gov/
Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network