Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy launched a fund to take on woke corporations with an approach called “excellence capitalism,” The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
Strive — based in Ramaswamy’s home state of Ohio rather than Wall Street — will serve as an alternative to asset managers BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street, which Ramaswamy dubbed an “ideological cartel” in an interview with the Journal. Rather than pushing “stakeholder capitalism” and other progressive viewpoints on companies in its portfolio, Strive will encourage firms to pursue maximizing profits for their shareholders.
“We will tell oil companies to be excellent oil companies and coal companies to be excellent coal companies and solar companies to be excellent solar companies,” Ramaswamy told the Journal.
Ramaswamy said that he has thus far gained $20 million in financial backing. The Journal reported that PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Pershing Square Capital Management CEO Bill Ackman are among the financiers.
“A majority of Americans want companies to stay out of politics,” Ramaswamy continued. “They want to have a separate space for where they shop, where they work, and where they invest from the places where they cast their ballots or engage in their political debates.”
Ramaswamy, the former CEO of biopharmaceutical company Roivant Sciences and author of “Woke, Inc: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam,” explained in an op-ed last year that both liberals and conservatives are duped by large firms’ tactics. The former by their “love of woke causes,” and the latter by their belief that “the market can do no wrong.”
“This new woke-industrial Leviathan gains its power by dividing us as a people. When corporations tell us what social values we’re supposed to adopt, they take America as a whole and divide us into tribes,” Ramaswamy wrote. “That makes it easier for them to make a buck, but it also coaxes us into adopting new identities based on skin-deep characteristics and flimsy social causes that supplant our deeper shared identity as Americans.”
“Corporations win. Woke activists win. Celebrities win. Even the Chinese Communist Party finds a way to win. But the losers of this game are the American people, including both sincere progressives who are used as pawns and everyday conservatives who are silenced, our hollowed-out institutions, and American democracy itself.”
Indeed, other business leaders have sounded the alarm over stakeholder capitalism and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards.
ESG criteria are “a set of standards for a company’s operations that socially conscious investors use to screen potential investments,” according to Investopedia. For instance, a company may emphasize its use of green energy, association with LGBTQ suppliers, or otherwise arrange its operations such that producing shareholder value is inseparable from a leftist agenda.
When software engineer and entrepreneur Marc Andreessen recently criticized ESG funds’ willingness to “make the weapons required to fight wars with hostile regimes we buy energy from” and simultaneous refusal to invest in energy companies, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk pointed out that “ESG rules have been twisted into insanity.”
The Biden administration has often flirted with pressing American companies into embracing ESG. In February 2021, Allison Lee — who served as acting chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) — directed the Division of Corporate Finance to “enhance its focus on climate-related disclosure in public company filings.”
“Now more than ever, investors are considering climate-related issues when making their investment decisions,” the official wrote. “It is our responsibility to ensure that they have access to material information when planning for their financial future. Ensuring compliance with the rules on the books and updating existing guidance are immediate steps the agency can take on the path to developing a more comprehensive framework that produces consistent, comparable, and reliable climate-related disclosures.”