Wednesday saw the announcement by Louisiana State Treasurer John Schroder that the Pelican State will divest roughly $800 million from asset management firm BlackRock.
The official noted that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investment violates Louisiana state law on fiduciary responsibility, which calls for “a singular concentration on financial returns for the recipients of state funds,” in a letter to BlackRock CEO Larry Fink. Similar verdicts have recently been made in other conservative states.
Schroder stated, “This divestment is important to safeguard Louisiana from requirements BlackRock has asked for that will devastate our critical energy sector. I will not part with a single cent of Treasury dollars to a firm that would rob hardworking Louisianans of their jobs, their money, and their food.”
The state of Louisiana has previously strategically divested $560 million from BlackRock and plans to do so again until a total of $794 million has been taken out of the business. In his letter, Schroder made the observation that Fink’s statements to the media “contradicted most of the public message” that he had previously heard Fink push.
In fact, Fink stated that “climate risk equals investment risk” in his most recent letter to top executives. According to its investment stewardship report, BlackRock, which manages $8.5 trillion in client assets, has “voted action on climate problems” against 53 of its portfolio firms in 2020 while placing 191 others “on watch.”
Schroder stated, “This divestment is required to defend Louisiana against actions and policies that would intentionally aim to handicap our fossil fuel sector. In my view, your support for ESG investing is at odds with Louisiana’s greatest economic interests and core values. I am unable to support a group that will deny our state access to one of its most valuable resources. To put it simply, we cannot participate in the destruction of our own economy.”
The move to divest comes in response to a recent investigation by Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, who determined that BlackRock and nine other corporations broke the law by “refusing to deal with” or “terminating commercial operations with” businesses engaged in the extraction and use of fossil fuels “without an ordinary business purpose.”
State Financial Officers Foundation CEO Derek Kreifels stated that other states, such West Virginia, Utah, and Arkansas, have all rejected the “weaponized” ESG movement. He said that “their irresponsible agenda” was costing Americans their retirement savings and raising the price of basic necessities like food, petrol, and electricity.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is developing regulations that would compel businesses to disclose the material risks that climate change poses to operations, the effects of “climate-related events” like severe weather on transaction activities, and risk management techniques used to reduce climate risk. This development comes amid state governments’ efforts to discourage ESG investment.
A recent CNBC study revealed that only 25% of chief financial officers favor the proposal, mostly because there is no correlation between the expenses their companies would spend by making the disclosures and the creation of profits.