Kentucky Becomes Latest State to Take on Woke Banks, Asset Managers

The state of Kentucky announced Tuesday that it may pull funds from JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock and nine other financial firms that “boycott” fossil fuel companies.

Kentucky passed a law in April 2022 that directs the state treasurer to publish a yearly list of banks and asset managers that are found to be boycotting energy companies. Kentucky Treasurer Allison Ball published a list of 11 financial firms that are now subject to divestment under the law unless they change their investment policies within 90 days.

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Commentary: 2022 Is the Year ESG Fell to Earth

The year 2022 brings an end to an era of illusions: a year that saw the end of the post–Cold War era and the return of geopolitics; the first energy crisis of the enforced energy transition to net zero; and the year that brought environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing down to earth with a thump—for the year to date, BlackRock’s ESG Screened S&P 500 ETF lost 22.2% of its value, and the S&P 500 Energy Sector Index rose 54.0%. The three are linked. By restricting investment in production of oil and gas by Western producers, ESG increases the market power of non-Western producers, thereby enabling Putin’s weaponization of energy supplies. Net zero—the holy grail of ESG—has turned out to be Russia’s most potent ally.

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Commentary: ESG and the Clash of Values

New York Stock Exchange

In the third of his four part review of Terrence Keeley’s Sustainable, Rupert Darwall writes that ESG rests on a vision of the free-market economy that says capitalism needs to be led by people with the right values, which raises the question: Whose values? This makes ESG inherently divisive, explaining the pushback ESG is now generating in red states. Keeley proposes a solution in keeping with the pluralism and diversity of modern America.

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Commentary: ESG and the Perpetually Just-Over the Horizon Climate Apocalypse

Concern about catastrophic climate change has been the biggest factor driving ESG, yet the likelihood of climate change being catastrophic and the attainment of net zero are not open to debate or challenge by participants in financial markets. In the last of his four part review of Terrence Keeley’s Sustainable, Rupert Darwall argues that this undermines the function of financial markets as efficient, unsentimental allocators of people’s savings in a way that maximizes growth and economic well-being.

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Commentary: The ESG Reality Is Not Doing Good But Feeling Good

ESG investment strategies can see investors giving up financial returns for no societal gain. In the second of his four part review of Terrence Keeley’s Sustainable, Rupert Darwall explores the implications of investment theory for ESG artificially constraining investment opportunities; the risks of regulators worsening an already inflated ESG bubble; and the distortions that arise from the widespread adoption of sustainability as an investment concept lacking an objective definition.

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Commentary: Review of Terrence Keeley’s ‘Sustainable’

ESG has its origins in a speech by UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at the Davos World Economic Forum in 1999. In the first of his four part review of Terrence Keeley’s Sustainable, Rupert Darwall shows how this created ESG’s dual mandate that accounts for its success – and its unsustainability as an investment strategy.

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Labor Department Approves Investing Pensions in ‘Woke’ ESG-Only Funds

The U.S. Labor Department announced plans to allow pension fund managers to “consider climate change and other environmental, social and governance factors,” also known as ESG, when choosing investments. 

In an announcement about the final rule last week, the agency criticized the Trump administration, stating, “the department concluded that two rules issued in 2020 … unnecessarily restrained plan fiduciaries’ ability to weigh environmental, social and governance factors when choosing investments, even when those factors would benefit plan participants financially.”

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New Republican Majority Plans to Target ‘Woke’ Businesses

exterior of BlackRock

One of the top agenda items for the GOP’s new majority in the House of Representatives is the targeting of “woke” corporations on Wall Street, threatening investigations and other government action if such companies do not reverse anti-American policies and practices.

Politico reports that some of the measures the GOP will be scrutinizing include “ESG (environmental, social, and governance)” policies, divesting from fossil fuels, and race-based affirmative action hiring policies for the sake of “diversity.”

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Commentary: The Nonsense of Stakeholder Capitalism

From Harvard to Hong Kong, stakeholder capitalism is gaining popularity at elite business schools worldwide. Followers of this trendy concept believe that a corporation, instead of primarily operating to benefit shareholders, should work to benefit all interested parties — or “stakeholders” — including suppliers, local communities, and governments. Stakeholder capitalism largely overlaps with efforts to advance so-called “environmental, social, and governance” (ESG) outcomes — a vaguely defined trio of left-wing priorities.

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Commentary: ESG Is Evil

The Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) scoring system is undergoing intense scrutiny. It also has become quite a political football, with conservative governors, attorneys general, and other officials pushing back against the movement while progressive politicians argue that ESG needs to go further.

This political tug-of-war has exposed the evil essence of ESG: It is an attempt by progressives to arm-twist the leaders of investment firms controlling the allocation of over $20 trillion in investment capital away from firms disfavored by progressives, including, most notably, producers of fossil fuels.

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BlackRock Stock Downgraded over Investments in ESG

The asset management company BlackRock, which has been widely criticized for promoting multiple far-left concepts in the world of business, has seen its stock downgraded due to ongoing backlash.

According to The Daily Wire, UBS analyst Brennan Hawken downgraded the company last week due to its support for Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) policies. The target stock price was reduced from $700 to just $585, resulting in a one percent drop in BlackRock shares on Tuesday.

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Republican Treasurers Pull $1 Billion from BlackRock over Alleged Anti-Fossil Fuel Policies

exterior of BlackRock

Republican state treasurers are withdrawing $1 billion in assets from BlackRock’s control due to the asset manager’s alleged boycott of the fossil fuel industry, according to the Financial Times.

Republican South Carolina State Treasurer Curtis Loftus is pulling $200 million from BlackRock by the end of 2022, and Louisiana treasurer John Schroder said on Oct. 5 that he is divesting $794 million from the company, according to the FT. Utah treasurer Marlo Oaks said he removed $100 million in funds from BlackRock’s control, and Arkansas treasurer Dennis Milligan pulled $125 million from the company in March.

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Commentary: Mutual Funds Are Using Your Money to Push ESG

The mutual fund industry has gone “woke.” It’s not just the asset managers who screen socially “unacceptable” companies in industries involving, say, guns, fossil fuels, tobacco, or gambling. Those have been around for decades.

No, there’s something else amiss. And if you’re investing your hard-earned money, you might be part of the problem.

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Merchant Banking Organization: Gun, Ammunition Purchases by Credit Card Will be Coded

An unloaded handgun sitting on the center console of a vehicle with the magazine clip next to it

The international organization responsible for creating merchant category codes for credit card purchases has given its approval to establish one for transactions made at gun stores.

The International Organization for Standardization’s Registration and Maintenance Management Group met on Wednesday to discuss a request made by Amalgamated Bank to set up such a code.

An ISO spokesperson told The Center Square that RMMG members could not decide whether to approve the application. That elevated the discussion to the ISO leadership that oversees standards for retail financial services.

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Commentary: Conservative Americans Can No Longer Conduct Business – and Commerce – as Usual

The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was a long-awaited victory for life. While Dobbs did not make abortion illegal, it did empower the residents of all 50 states to democratically determine abortion’s legal status through their elected representatives. Currently, 22 states provide or will soon provide protection for unborn children. The other 28 states place few or no limits on abortion. The abortion battle will now move to the ballot box in each state.

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Bank of America Shareholders Band Together Against Company’s ‘Woke’ Practices

A group of shareholders in America’s largest bank has banded together to fight against the company’s “woke” policies.

Members of a group called The Boardroom Initiative issued a shareholder proposal that rebuked some of Bank of America’s “wokeness,” and though the proposal was shot down, members of the group remained upbeat.

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States Preemptively Banning ESG Practices Pushed by Big Capital

States across the country are preemptively banning Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) scoring, which some say would lead to a massive consolidation of wealth among the most powerful investment companies in America. 

“In an attempt to secure vast amounts of wealth and influence over society, corporations, bankers, and investors, working closely with key government officials, have launched a unified effort to impose environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards on most of the industrialized global economy. (ESG standards are also referred to as ‘sustainable investment’ or ‘stakeholder capitalism.’),” Justin Haskins at The Heartland Institute said. 

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Commentary: BlackRock CEO Larry Fink Warns Environmental, Social and Governance Investors Ukraine War Will ‘Slow the World’s Progress Toward Net Zero’ in Near Term

Larry Fink

Blackrock CEO Larry Fink warned Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investors in his $10 trillion hedge fund’s annual shareholder letter that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and the resulting Western sanctions on Russia — had disrupted globalization and interdependent supply chains and would result in “increasing oil and gas supply” in the U.S. and “coal consumption may increase over the next year” in Europe and Asia to offset the drop in Russian exports.

As a result, Fink projected, “This will inevitably slow the world’s progress toward net zero in the near term,” referring to ESG goals like net zero global carbon emissions by 2050 that would encounter challenges, particularly as American consumers pay much higher prices with consumer inflation up 7.9 percent and producer inflation up 10 percent the past twelve months.

Those price pressures will mean more oil and gas production immediately, Fink said.

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Commentary: ESG Investing Is Politics by Other Means

Before Joe Biden’s election, environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing was sweeping all before it. Wall Street was coming to the planet’s rescue and saving capitalism at the same time. It was a self-serving myth. As I show in my new report Capitalism, Socialism and ESG published today, doing well by doing good is no more than Wall Street sales patter. But since the election, financial regulators have been falling over themselves playing catchup.

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