Oregon explores suing Fox leaders for financial mismanagement

 Pat Dooris, Anthony Macuk (KGW)

SALEM, Ore. (KGW) — Oregon’s pension fund has nearly $12 million invested in Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News, and state leaders want to know if the company’s board of directors hurt Oregon’s investment by allowing Fox News to broadcast false claims about Dominion Voting Systems.

Dominion sued Fox for $1.6 billion after the cable network’s hosts repeated false claims made by then-President Donald Trump and his allies that Dominion voting machines had been used to steal the 2020 election by secretly flipping votes.

Some hosts on Fox continued to promote the election lies to their audiences even as they privately ridiculed them. Court testimony and internal conversations and texts showed that some of the network’s biggest stars, including Tucker Carlson, knew the claims were false.

Dominion and Fox announced a settlement on April 18, just before the court case was scheduled to begin. Fox agreed to pay Dominion $787.5 million, a brutal penalty that hurt the company’s stock price — which in turn hurt investors who held Fox stock, including Oregon.

Related: ‘Lies have consequences’: Dominion and Fox News reach $787.5M settlement in defamation lawsuit

The state holds both Class A and Class B shares of Fox stock. Class A traded for $34 per share on April 18, when the settlement news broke, and it did fall, but eventually climbed back up to $33.84 on June 8. It went down again a bit on Friday. The Class B stock followed a similar pattern, falling from a pre-settlement level of $31.20 per share and then recovering to $31.40 by Friday.

Fox is also facing a second election-related lawsuit from another voting machine company called Smartmatic, and the network’s legal woes are prompting Oregon leaders to start taking action.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and State Treasurer Tobias Read said last week that their departments are jointly investigating the possibility of leading a lawsuit on behalf of investors, which would target the company’s management and board of directors.

Duty to shareholders

The Story’s Pat Dooris recently sat down with Read to talk about Oregon’s investigation. One of the first questions: Why does a state known for its progressive politics own stock in the parent company of Fox News, a network that built its brand on staunch conservatism?

Read said the choice is consistent with the state’s pension fund investment strategy, which is to spread the risk out by investing little bits of money in a wide range of places.

It’s an index approach that theoretically keeps costs low by limiting the damage from volatility in specific sectors. So if the question is whether Oregon owns stock in any given publicly traded company, Read said, the answer is very likely yes, at least to some degree – no matter who it is.

“We are not so arrogant as to think that we can pick individual stocks and be successful in the long run,” Read said. “Our style is to be widely exposed to lots of different things, not trying to time the market, not trying to be smarter than the crowd, in that sense.”

A $12 million investment might not seem like a small amount of money, but in the context of Oregon’s overall pension fund, that’s exactly what it is — it’s about 0.0127% of the total, according to Read.

But then why the extra scrutiny on Fox Corp. at the moment? Is this a case of progressive Oregon trying to take a shot at conservative media?

That’s not what’s happening here, according to Read. This is just Oregon doing its due diligence as a shareholder to make sure the Fox board is acting in the company’s best interest.

“We’re interested in making sure that our investments are being well-managed, that the boards of companies are meeting their obligations, that they’re looking out for their shareholders,” Read said. “We do this in a variety of places, and that’s consistent with our obligation to the 400,000 beneficiaries on whose behalf we’re investing.”

Read described Oregon’s current approach as a “books and records request,” a preliminary step to learn more about the financial impact of the Dominion settlement. Further steps will depend on what the state finds out, he said.

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Taylar Ansures is a producer and reporter for NBC5 News. Taylar is from Redding, California and went to California State University, Chico. After graduating, she joined KRCR News Channel 7 in Redding as a morning producer. She moved to Southern Oregon in 2022 to be closer to family and became KTVL News 10’s digital producer. Taylar is currently finishing her Master's Degree in Professional Creative Writing through the University of Denver. In her free time, Taylar frequents independent bookstores and explores hiking trails across Southern Oregon and Northern California.
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