Saying environmental, social and governance investing is an “elite-driven phenomenon” spearheaded by globalist jet-setters, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Feb. 13 unveiled a slew of proposals aimed at assuring that no Sunshine State funds will be involved in ESG investments pushed by Wall Street brokerage firms, climate activists and the Biden administration.
DeSantis’s move comes as Indiana’s legislature considers a bill that would protect the state’s pension funds from the perils of ESG investing by ensuring that such funds are invested solely to achieve maximum return on investment and not advance social or political causes that may not serve the financial interests of state pensioners and taxpayers.
A growing number of investment firms and financial institutions — such as Blackrock, Vanguard and State Street — have adopted ESG scoring criteria that rate companies less on their potential to perform well for investors but on such things as board diversity, political donations and commitment to the prevailing narrative of combating climate change by reducing carbon emissions.
“Today’s announcement builds on my commitment to protect consumers’ investments and their ability to access financial services in the free state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “By applying arbitrary ESG financial metrics that serve no one except the companies that created them, elites are circumventing the ballot box to implement a radical ideological agenda.”
The governor’s sweeping proposals include a plan that would codify into law a non-binding resolution approved by the legislature last year that prohibited ESG investing in pension funds for state and local employees, including teachers, firefighters and police officers. DeSantis’s legislative package also restricts banks that hold public funds — qualified public depositories — from using ESG in their investment decisions. Lest ESG advocates miss the message, investment firms that engage in ESG would also be barred from being lenders to the state or local governments.
The legislation would prohibit the state from providing ESG-related information to the credit-rating agencies that rate Florida’s ability to meet its debt obligations. The legislation would also protect Floridians against discrimination from big banks based on their religious, social or political beliefs.
With Republicans having solid majorities in both houses of the Florida legislature, the DeSantis-backed crackdown on ESG is expected to pass with little difficulty.
“We will not allow these martini millionaires to push unsafe and unsound investment practices that silence debate in the political process, weaken investment strategies for Florida retirees, and discriminate against any individual’s beliefs,” said House Speaker Paul Renner.
In Indiana, legislators are considering a bill that seeks to rein in ESG by stating that a fiduciary “shall discharge (its) duties solely in the financial interests of the participants and beneficiaries of the public pension system.”
Addressing ESG’s climate goals, the bill notes a fiduciary “may be reasonably determined to have taken an action” or be considered to be seeking “to further social, political, or ideological interests based on evidence indicating” that the fiduciary is acting “beyond the federal or state law requirements” in regards to “eliminating, offsetting, or disclosing greenhouse gas emissions.”
Under the bill, ESG-driven fiduciaries may also be determined to have taken action opposed to their clients’ financial interests by “divesting from, limiting investment in, or limiting the investments or activities of a company.” Companies targeted by ESG asset managers would, for example, be those that have not committed to specific environmental/climate standards or disclosures; manufacture, distribute, or sell firearms; contract with United State Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); or are involved with fossil fuels, agriculture, food production, mining, or timber harvesting, among other industries.
“By clarifying the fiduciary responsibilities of Indiana’s pension fund managers,” say the Heartland Institute’s Tim Benson and Jack McPherrin, “and by insisting that maximizing the return on investment for clients be the only guiding principle, Indiana legislators can help ensure the long-term fiscal health of the state’s pension systems and make sure that promises proffered to state pensioners will be kept.”