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Woke investing draws the ire of Republican lawmakers

(The Center Square) – BlackRock Inc., the self-proclaimed world’s largest investment manager, announced this year that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote the growth of “gender lens investing.”

The term, which didn’t appear in newspapers until 2012, is described by one multi-national accounting firm as “investing in organizations that promote workplace equity … or in organizations that offer products or services that improve the lives of women in a sustainable manner.”

It’s that type of “woke investing” known as ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) that has BlackRock and a handful of other investment managers on the radar of Republican politicians.

With annual revenue of $19.3 billion, BlackRock was accused in 2021 media stories of flexing its economic might by demanding “corporate polluters” to explain how they meet BlackRock’s goal of net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 or risk BlackRock divesting from those companies with its managed funds.

Some states are now responding.

State of Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar published a list of 10 financial companies that boycott energy companies. BlackRock was on his list.

“The environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) movement has produced an opaque and perverse system in which some financial companies no longer make decisions in the best interest of their shareholders or their clients, but instead use their financial clout to push a social and political agenda shrouded in secrecy,” Hegar said in a statement.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton stated in a letter that BlackRock’s energy agenda may violate state laws across the country that are “requiring a sole focus on financial return.”

“Our states will not idly stand for our pensioners’ retirements to be sacrificed for BlackRock’s climate agenda,” Paxton’s letter stated, which was signed by a total of 19 GOP state attorneys general.

In August, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the State Board of Administration passed a resolution that removed ESG from consideration when it comes to investing state funds.

“Corporate power has increasingly been utilized to impose an ideological agenda on the American people through the perversion of financial investment priorities under the euphemistic banners of environmental, social, and corporate governance and diversity, inclusion, and equity,” DeSantis said in a statement.

In 2021, BlackRock reported record results.

BlackRock supports the Paris Agreement, in which the U.S. ended its participation in 2020 under President Donald Trump due to the “onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States.” Trump said in a news release the Paris Accord would cost the U.S. economy $3 trillion and 6.5 million industrial jobs by 2040. President Joe Biden reversed course on his first day in office and accepted the Paris Agreement.

The Texas Attorney General’s Aug. 4, 2022, letter specifically mentioned BlackRock’s support of the Paris Agreement.

BlackRock has been transparent about its investment strategy involving ESG.

In 2018, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink sent a letter to CEOs stating, “Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”

Fink added, “… a company’s ability to manage environmental, social, and governance matters demonstrates the leadership and good governance that is so essential to sustainable growth, which is why we are increasingly integrating these issues into our investment process.”