Cerberus Capital Management

Andrew Hill

Cerberus plans to sell its stake in gunmaker. Getty Images

The 12th and most difficult labour of Hercules was to vanquish Cerberus, the three-headed hound guarding the gates of the Underworld – without using weapons.

How appropriate, then, that California State Teachers’ Retirement System (Calstrs) has disarmed Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm, so quickly and comprehensively. On Tuesday, Cerberus said it would sell its stake in Freedom Group, manufacturer of one of the weapons used in last week’s Sandy Hook school shooting.

There are obvious reasons why Calstrs, which was reviewing its investment in Cerberus, moved so fast. In fact, it seems somewhat extraordinary that it had not previously noticed and severed the indirect link between its beneficiaries’ retirement funds and gun manufacturers. It is also arguable whether divestment by Cerberus – presumably to another, less sensitive buyer – will achieve real policy change. But it is a start.