Your retirement plan probably funds nuclear weapons - here are the top 20 biggest companies and their investors

Your retirement plan probably funds nuclear weapons - here are the top 20 biggest companies and their investors

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Reuters/Department of Defense

A B-2 bomber drops a nuclear bomb casing during an exercise.

  • A new report highlights private investments in companies that work on nuclear weapons systems.
  • The report, called "Don't Bank on the Bomb," includes data from major retirement funds, pensions, and other publicly disclosed investments from January 2014 through October 2017.
  • Peace organizations behind the report aim to encourage "divesting from nuclear weapon[s] producers."
  • However, the report does not cover government spending, nor does it specify how much money went specifically toward nuclear-weapons-related work.

It's easy to sign up for a retirement plan and take advantage of employer matching, robust tax savings, and a sizable nest egg at the finish line.

But understanding exactly which companies your funds invest in - and how those entities make money for you - is anything but straightforward.

A soon-to-be-released financial report, titled "Don't Bank on the Bomb," hopes to shed light on one pervasive and profitable industry that's powered in part by 401(k)s, pensions, individual retirement accounts, and other private funds: nuclear weapons.

"Financial institutions have a choice, either to contribute to the end of nuclear weapons, or to provide the financing that will allow nuclear weapons to end us," said the authors of the 2018 report, which was provided to Business Insider in advance of its publication.


Peace organizations have assembled the report each year since 2013. This year, the report covers publicly disclosed investments made by financial institutions from January 2014 through October 2017, and it excludes those "made by governments, universities, or churches."

About $525 billion was managed by "329 significant investors" that include "banks, insurance companies, pension funds and asset managers from 24 countries" - all of which, according to the report, "invest significantly in the top 20 nuclear weapon producers."

What the report found

Below is the report's list of companies that perform nuclear-weapons work, and how much investment they received over about 3.75 years.

"The research includes all outstanding loans and credit facilities during the research period, not only new loans issued," the report said.

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Data shown here cover private investments disclosed for January 2014 through October 2017.


"Don't Bank on the Bomb" also includes a "Hall of Shame" list that covers the hundreds of investors which contributed to these 20 companies.

The chart below - created by Business Insider using report data - highlights the top 20 financial institutions and their total contributions.

Many of the financial institutions manage employee retirement accounts and pensions. (Disclosure: Business Insider's parent corporation, Insider Inc., uses Vanguard to administer its employees' retirement funds.)

nuclear weapons companies retirement funds 2018 dont bank bomb business insider bi graphics

Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Data shown here cover private investments disclosed for January 2014 through October 2017.

These totals in the tens of billions are impressive, but the nuclear-weapons-producing companies listed above dabble in all sorts of industries and use their investments to create everything from air conditioners and airplanes to rockets and satellites.


The 2018 "Don't Bank on the Bomb" report does not specify how much of the investments it listed specifically went toward the business of nuclear weapons - work that includes research, development, maintenance, parts, and so on. Similarly, details on the investing side also weren't provided, and some investors listed above manage trillions of dollars in assets per year.

Business Insider contacted the top three companies and top-three financial institutions listed above in to determine a breakdown. Most did not return our calls or respond to our emails in time for publication.

A Honeywell representative did respond, though he declined to comment and instead directed us to the company's latest financial report. Along with the financial statements of other companies, it does not provide a detailed ledger of business related to work on nuclear weapons.

A push to ban the bomb

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Getty Images

A Trident II (D-5) missile launches from an Ohio-class submarine during a test.

Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winner, wrote a forward to the "Don't Bank on the Bomb" report.

"Nuclear weapons, like other weapons of mass destruction, are now forbidden by international treaty," Fihn said


Fihn's comment refers to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons - a legally-binding ban that she helped the United Nations pass in July 2017. (The US and eight other nuclear-armed nations have yet to sign or ratify the treaty.)

"By divesting from nuclear weapon producers," she added, "we can make it harder for those that profit from weapons of mass destruction and encourage them to cut the production of nuclear weapons from their business strategies."

Yet lack of government investment data is notable in terms of an effort to ban nuclear weapons. That's because US taxpayers fund a significant amount of the work: about $16-$25 billion a year through the Department of Defense's enormous budget.

President Donald Trump also plans to modify and expand a Obama-era nuclear weapons modernization program that may cost US taxpayers more than $1.7 trillion over 30 years.

The report also excludes government investments made by China, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, and Russia - the latter of which says it has created "invincible" nuclear armaments.

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