Multiple Republican state attorneys general filed suit against the Labor Department over a measure that would nix a previous ban on environmental, social, and corporate governance investments, also known as ESG, among fiduciaries managing retirement funds.
The agency published a final rule last year that reflected the Biden administration’s directive to safeguard the economy from “climate-related financial risk that may threaten the life savings and pensions of America’s workers and families.” Under the new rule, which reverses a prohibition formerly created under the Trump administration, fiduciaries are permitted to weigh “the economic effects of climate change and other ESG considerations” as long as such concerns are relevant to a risk-and-return analysis.
The lawsuit filed on Thursday by 25 attorneys general contends that the new rule “undermines key protections for retirement savings of 152 million workers” established under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, also known as ERISA, a statute that creates minimum standards of conduct for pension plans in the private sector.
One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is Liberty Energy, an oil and gas company which contends that the rule would invite “activists” to wage proxy campaigns against the firm. “We are suing because this regulation makes it harder to protect our workers’ retirement security and impedes investing in our industry and its ability to provide reliable and affordable energy to our communities,” Liberty Energy CEO Chris Wright said in a statement provided to The Daily Wire.
The former rule established by the Trump administration barred fiduciaries from “selecting investments based on non-pecuniary considerations” and required them to “base investment decisions on financial factors” alone. Critics of the ESG movement contend that the investment philosophy mingles political and social causes, such as reducing carbon emissions and achieving racial diversity, in a manner that compromises profitability.
“This rule is an affront to every American concerned about their retirement account,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement provided to The Daily Wire. “The fact that the Biden administration is now opting to risk the financial security of working-class Americans to advance a woke political agenda is insulting and illegal. For generations, federal law has required that fiduciaries place their clients’ financial interests at the forefront.”
American investors are largely skeptical toward ESG investment strategies and desire that their funds are allocated in a politically agnostic manner. An exclusive poll from The Daily Wire showed last year that 64% of respondents believe “individual investors whose savings are being invested” should decide whether funds are appropriated according to ESG standards, while a mere 20% believe that “Wall Street asset managers” should make such decisions.
The lawsuit comes after Republican state treasurers divested some $12 billion from asset management company BlackRock last year over the firm’s promotion of the ESG movement. Other states joining the lawsuit include Florida, Utah, Virginia, Georgia, Ohio, and Tennessee.
“This is about protecting retirees in Louisiana and the rest of the country,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said in a statement provided to The Daily Wire. “Investments should be made using sound economic principles, not woke policies. These firms have a responsibility to invest with their client’s best financial interests in mind rather than Biden’s disastrous agenda.”