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Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner speaks with business owners as part of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce's California Candidates Series on September 15, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Poizner is on a statewide tour of small businesses and chambers of commerce to strengthen support among the business community for his run take over the California governorship when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger steps down.
State regulators said Wednesday that California insurance companies are holding $12 billion in investments in firms that trade with the Iranian energy, nuclear, banking and defense industries.
"It's just wrong for consumers here in California to find out that their hard-earned money that they pay in insurance premiums are propping up the regime in Iran," Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said. "We need to do whatever it takes to put maximum pressure on Iran to change its behavior."
The California Department of Insurance said it will soon provide insurance companies licensed in California with a list of those firms doing business with Iran.
Many of these companies are based in South America, China, Russia and Europe. Among them are Siemens, Statoil, Petroleo Brasileiro and Total SA, the CDI said.
After the list is released, insurance companies will be given one month to notify the CDI in writing that they will comply with the divestment request and disclose the value of the identified investments. Insurers will then be given three months to eliminate those holdings from their portfolios.
For companies that refuse to divest, state insurance regulators will make public a list of these companies and provide the name and value of their Iran-related investments, the CDI said.
Poizner will also subpoena high-ranking executives of these insurance companies to testify under oath and ask them "why they believe it is in the interest of California policyholders for their premium dollars to be invested in companies propping up Iran's energy, nuclear, defense and banking sectors," the CDI said.
If an insurer still refuses to divest, Poizner will take legal action to force divestment, the CDI said.
"The government of Iran continues its oppressive crackdown against its own people, and thumbs its nose at the international community over its expanding nuclear program," Poizner said Wednesday.
"Iran's ambition to dominate the region under a nuclear umbrella is a very serious threat to this country and to people all over the world," he said.