Attorneys general from multiple conservative states and nonprofit organization Consumers’ Research filed motions seeking to prevent Vanguard from purchasing shares in publicly traded utilities out of a concern that the company’s climate change efforts will raise prices and decrease energy reliability.
The motions filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission argue that Vanguard should not be eligible for blanket authorization to buy shares in public utilities under the Federal Power Act because the asset manager uses market power to advance decarbonization goals. Along with rival firms BlackRock and State Street, Vanguard participates in the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative, through which the companies commit to seek “net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner” using investment funds.
“We took this action on behalf of American energy consumers because time and time again we see massive Wall Street firms pretending to ‘passively’ manage their shares, but instead they use those assets to bully utility companies into adopting radical left-wing policies that drive up electric bills and risk the stability of our power grid,” Consumers’ Research Executive Director Will Hild remarked in a statement provided to The Daily Wire.
Among other examples, the group’s complaint noted that Vanguard, BlackRock, and State Street coordinated to elect three climate-conscious board members to Exxon Mobil, which subsequently announced a $15 billion commitment to lower emissions while abandoning certain oil and gas projects. BlackRock has taken “voting action on climate issues” against dozens of its portfolio companies, according to an investment stewardship report.
The adjacent motion from 13 Republican state attorneys general likewise contends that Vanguard breached commitments to refrain from exercising “any control over the day-to-day management” of utility companies or taking action “affecting the prices at which power is transmitted or sold.” The lawyers, who called for a hearing to determine whether a renewed blanket authorization for Vanguard is in the public interest, argued that the company has engaged in “environmental activism” and used “financial influence to manipulate the activities of the utility companies in its portfolio.”
“Kentucky joined a coalition of attorneys general, led by Indiana and Utah, in challenging Vanguard’s application to extend its blanket authorization under the Federal Power Act for the acquisition of certain securities of publicly traded utilities,” Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said in a statement provided to The Daily Wire. “Consumers across our country are already feeling the sting of skyrocketing electricity bills, and Vanguard’s request to extend its authorization, coupled with its commitment to imposing net-zero requirements on publicly traded utilities, would only increase these costs.”
Republican state officials have implemented a number of moves to divest pension funds from leading asset managers out of a concern that the firms advance social agendas antithetical to the values of their constituents. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink recently announced that institutional clients will be able to vote their shares rather than allow the firm to exercise proxy voting.
Beyond funds controlled by conservative-leaning states, evidence suggests that broader market forces call for asset managers to let shareholders retain the ability to vote their shares. An exclusive poll from The Daily Wire showed that 64% of respondents believe “individual investors whose savings are being invested” should ultimately decide whether retirement and pension funds are allocated according to ESG standards, while a mere 20% believe that “Wall Street asset managers” should make such decisions.