Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed that red states band together to form a block vote that would prohibit the use of ESG criteria in their state pension fund investments. He said that such a collective action could “check a lot of these ESG votes that are going on throughout corporate America.”
ESG stands for “environmental, social, and governance” criteria used to screen potential investments based on a company’s behaviors in addition to the economic profitability of the possible investment. For example, investors might consider how a company protects the environment, how it manages relationships with communities where it does business, or how a company handles executive leadership and compensation, among various other factors some have called “woke” policies.
The governor said that he believes other states will begin doing what Florida is already doing to combat ESG investing. He said that he would “like to do get a lot of the conservative states together and let’s get our proxy voting rights on all of our funds, let’s combine those and vote as a block.”
He went on to say that if red states acted together they could control more than a trillion dollars in assets, which “would make a difference.” He urged both Republican and Democrat governors to “band together and let’s fight back against this so we can keep power to the people.”
DeSantis also announced on Wednesday that he is proposing legislation in his state that is designed to prohibit the Florida State Board of Administration from using any fund managers that consider ESG factors or scoring when making investment decisions with public funds.
The Florida board currently manages more than $240 billion in assets, including almost $190 billion held in the Florida Retirement System.
In announcing the proposed bill, DeSantis said that the statutory reforms would ensure that “we’re putting the people of Florida first.”
He emphasized that he wants to be sure that managers are not using political factors to make investment decisions with public money, but uses only best fiduciary practices to invest for the sole best interests of the beneficiaries of the funds.
The governor added, “We’re going to do what’s in their best interest, not whatever the delusion of some wealthy woke CEO wants to do.”