Republican AGs Challenge New ESG Rule

Republican state attorneys general are off to a strong start in 2023 defending their constituents against overreach from the Biden Administration. As Pensions&Investments reported, a coalition of mostly-Republican states are suing the Biden Administration for a new Labor Department rule that would allow ESG (Environmental, social, and corporate governance) considerations for investments by retirement funds: 

Republican attorneys general from the 25 states, co-led by Ken Paxton of Texas and Sean D. Reyes of Utah, filed a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Amarillo, Texas, arguing that the Labor Department's rule undermines key protections for retirement savers, oversteps the department's authority under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act, and is arbitrary and capricious.

The Labor Department in November finalized its rule — Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights — after unveiling the proposal in October 2021.

The rule, which will go into effect Jan. 30, allows ERISA fiduciaries to consider environmental, social and governance factors. It also maintains the department's position that fiduciaries may not sacrifice investment returns or assume greater investment risks as a means of promoting collateral social policy goals.

Moreover, the rule is a reversal of two rules promulgated late in the Trump administration that said retirement plan fiduciaries could not invest in "non-pecuniary" vehicles that sacrifice investment returns or take on additional risk and outlined a process a fiduciary must undertake when making decisions about casting a proxy vote.

As Fox News noted, the Labor Department rule reflects the broader trend of the finance industry focussing on ESG:

Over the past few years, massive asset managers and financial institutions have increasingly focused on prioritizing ESG factors when making key investment decisions. They have particularly set their sights on investing in companies based on those companies' efforts to combat climate change and curb their carbon footprints.

Companies like BlackRock, State Street and Vanguard, which collectively manage trillions of dollars in assets, have taken lead roles in the ESG movement.

In response to the growing movement, Republican state attorneys general and financial officers have fought back, canceling contracts with the firms and threatening legal action over how they handle customers' investments.

"Everyday Americans are having their investment dollars used against them as those in power favor a political agenda over financial returns," Derek Kreifels, CEO of the State Financial Officers Foundation, a group that has organized state and local opposition to the ESG movement, told FOX Business. "It is the actions like that of these attorneys general that will ensure Americans are safe from activist-investors and progressive elites who would rather focus on politics than upholding their fiduciary duty." 

The Labor Department rule is another example of the Biden Administration putting "wokeness" before what is best for the country. 

RNLA applauds Republican attorneys general for their commitment to fighting against the Biden Administration's dangerous policies.