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Oklahoma ESG bill in question

Judge Sheila D. Stinson said in her ruling the "divesture or transfer of assets and investments has the potential to affect the financial soundness of the investment accounts."

Published: May 10, 2024 5:56pm

(The Center Square) -

(The Center Square) - An Oklahoma County District Court Judge issued a temporary injunction banning the state from enforcing its environmental, social and governance law and two state officials are in a war of words over who is to blame.

The law passed by the legislature in 2022 bans the state from doing business with financial institutes that discriminate against the oil and gas industry. The decision to ban a company is based on public comments or a refusal to answer a questionnaire sent by the treasurer's office.

Judge Sheila D. Stinson said in her ruling the "divesture or transfer of assets and investments has the potential to affect the financial soundness of the investment accounts."

The case was filed by Don Keenan, a retired state employee who served on several boards, including the Oklahoma Public Employees and Justice and Judges and Retirement Board.

Attorney General Gentner Drummond fired an attorney hired by Treasurer Todd Russ to defend the lawsuit.

“It is extremely disappointing that the counsel hired by Treasurer Russ was unable to secure a favorable ruling in defense of Oklahoma’s anti-ESG law,” Drummond said. “Because of this failure, the law is now on hold and at risk of being struck down entirely. Oklahomans deserve better.”

Russ said he asked Drummond to represent the treasurer's office but he declined to take the case.

"So, I was left with no other choice but to choose who I was most comfortable representing me. My constitutional office as the State Treasurer makes me party to the lawsuit, and therefore I don’t believe my decision-making authority can be removed," Russ said. "Certainly, I am disappointed with the outcome but have several facts for appeal. I had hoped to have the Attorney General as my defender all along.”

Russ' office will not be involved with the case in the future, Drummond said Thursday.

"Effective immediately, I have terminated Treasurer Russ’s hand-picked counsel and removed the treasurer from any decision-making role in the lawsuit," Drummond said.

Russ recently added Barclays PLC to the list of companies.

This is the third revision of the list which also includes Blackrock Inc., Wells Fargo and Company, JPMorgan Chase and Company, Bank of America N.A., State Street Corp., and Climate First Bank.

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