Missouri Treasurer pleads for legislature to address ESG influence on public pensions

“They’re basically using taxpayer money to do things like elect climate activists to the boards of oil companies,” Scott Fitzpatrick says.

Published: July 16, 2022 10:40am

Updated: July 16, 2022 11:35pm

(The Center Square) -

The Missouri legislature needs to examine who is making investments of taxpayer funds held in public pensions, according to the state treasurer.

Scott Fitzpatrick, a candidate for the Republican nomination for state auditor, highlighted his concern during a recent visit to St. Louis. He believes a top legislative priority should be acting on the state’s investment relationships with any Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Funds through public pension systems.

“I think the legislators should work on legislation to address the impacts of ESG investing and make sure that state pension plans are not allowing their assets to be voted by asset managers that are advancing a woke political agenda,” Fitzpatrick, who was elected to a full term as treasurer in November 2020, said in an interview with The Center Square. “We’re seeing that in companies like Black Rock.”

Last month, Fitzpatrick distributed a media release in an effort to protect the Missouri State Employees’ Retirement System’s investments “from being used by activist investment managers to advance left-wing social and political causes, which are harmful to shareholders and violated their fiduciary obligations to Missourians.”

Fitzpatrick said state government must take back control of how funds are being managed and proxy votes cast.

“They’re basically using taxpayer money to do things like elect climate activists to the boards of oil companies,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s not good for shareholder returns or value. I think ESG is currently a big threat to our country. And I think it's going to fall on states to push back on that.”

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published an investor bulletin on ESG last year due to increased popularity with investors.

“ESG practices can include, but are not limited to, strategies that select companies based on their stated commitment to one or more ESG factors – for example, companies with policies aimed at minimizing their negative impact on the environment or companies that focus on governance principles and transparency,” the bulletin stated. ”ESG practices may also entail screening out companies in certain sectors or that, in the view of the fund manager, have shown poor performance with regard to management of ESG risks and opportunities. Furthermore, some fund managers may focus on companies that they view as having room for improvement on ESG matters, with a view to helping those companies improve through actively engaging with the companies.”

Fitzpatrick predicted the federal government will embrace more ESG initiatives through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., SEC, the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency and other rule-making organizations.

“The large corporations in America are following their marching orders and I think it’s a threat to capitalism and democracy,” Fitzpatrick said. “What we really need is a new proxy service that is going to look through a different lens. The ones that are out there are all pretty much woke at this point. There needs to be an alternative and I think the market is going to react or respond to this.”

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