State Treasurer Riley Moore today praised the signing of his proposal to protect state-managed pension funds and other investments from being used by activist money managers to advance radical environmental and social goals through the shareholder proxy voting process.
“West Virginia is once again leading the way to fight back against woke activists who want to use our state investments and retiree pension dollars to advance extreme political and social agendas that go against the best financial interests of our citizens,” Treasurer Moore said.
Gov. Jim Justice on Tuesday signed House Bill 2862, which was proposed by Treasurer Moore and overwhelmingly passed the Legislature this session. The bill requires the state’s investment boards – which manage more than $34 billion in public pension and state investment funds – to cast proxy votes solely based on the financial interests of pensioners and taxpayers, rather than Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors.
Proxy voting allows shareholders to vote on key issues while not personally attending corporations’ annual shareholder meetings.
However, in recent years the world’s largest asset managers – including BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street – have leveraged proxy voting authority to further ESG measures that go beyond strictly financial factors, including whether the companies are curtailing business with firms tied to the fossil fuel industry, providing access to abortion care, and other social matters under the umbrella of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Treasurer Moore said passage of this bill is especially critical now that President Biden has vetoed Congress’s bipartisan repeal of the U.S. Department of Labor rule that gives investment managers broad discretion to consider ESG factors in their retirement plan products, which repealed protections that had been put in place under the Trump Administration.
“President Biden and progressive leaders know they can’t get their radical environmental and social agenda passed through Congress, so they’ve outsourced its implementation to their allies on Wall Street – and this new Department of Labor rule will open the floodgates to these command-and-control economic tactics,” Treasurer Moore said. “This is why the states must stand up and take the lead to fight against this undemocratic, anti-American agenda.”
West Virginia has led the way in this fight. Last January, Treasurer Moore was the first state official to divest funds from BlackRock over its ESG activism. He also championed legislation to create the country’s first Restricted Financial Institutions List, which prohibits state business with firms shown to be engaged in boycotts of the fossil fuel industries.