DeSantis pulls $2 billion of Florida assets in bold move against ‘woke’ ESG agenda

Once again, Florida is leading the charge against “woke” ideology, with an announcement on Thursday that the Sunshine State is yanking $2 billion worth of assets from global money management behemoth, BlackRock Inc., in opposition to the company’s environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) policies.

The move marks the largest divestment by a state over the Orwellian ESG scores, Reuters reports.

In a press release, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis said, “As Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, it’s my responsibility to get the best returns possible for taxpayers. The more effective we are in investing dollars to generate a return, the more effective we’ll be in funding priorities like schools, hospitals and roads.”

“As major banking institutions and economists predict a recession in the coming year, and as the Fed increases interest rates to combat the inflation crisis, I need partners within the financial services industry who are as committed to the bottom line as we are – and I don’t trust BlackRock’s ability to deliver,” he stated.

Patronis detailed the thinking behind his decision:

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink is on a campaign to change the world. In an open letter to CEOs, he’s championed “stakeholder capitalism” and believes that “capitalism has the power to shape society.” To meet this end, the asset management company has leaned heavily into Environmental, Social, and Governance standards – known as ESG – to help police who should, and who should not gain access to capital.

Whether stakeholder capitalism, or ESG standards, are being pushed by BlackRock for ideological reasons, or to develop social credit ratings, the effect is to avoid dealing with the messiness of democracy. I think it’s undemocratic of major asset managers to use their power to influence societal outcomes. If Larry, or his friends on Wall Street, want to change the world – run for office. Start a non-profit. Donate to the causes you care about.

Using our cash, however, to fund BlackRock’s social-engineering project isn’t something Florida ever signed up for. It’s got nothing to do with maximizing returns and is the opposite of what an asset manager is paid to do. Florida’s Treasury Division is divesting from BlackRock because they have openly stated they’ve got other goals than producing returns. As Larry Fink stated to CEOs “[A]ccess to capital is not a right. It is a privilege.” As Florida’s CFO I agree wholeheartedly, so we’ll be taking Larry up on his offer. There’s no lack of companies who will invest on our behalf, so the Florida Treasury will be taking its business elsewhere.

 

Florida had placed in BlackRock’s hands its $1.43 billion Long Duration Portfolio, which manages investments, including corporate obligations, asset-backed securities, and municipal bonds. Another $600 million in Treasury’s Short Term Investment Fund (STIF) — a “cash sweep vehicle Treasury uses to assist long duration, intermediate duration, and short duration managers in managing their cash on a daily basis” — were exclusively managed by the company.

While pulling Florida’s money won’t exactly bring BlackRock to its $8 trillion knees, as Reuters notes, “it underscores how a backlash against ESG investing is gathering steam among Republican leaders in Florida, and elsewhere, who criticize corporations for focusing on matters like climate change or workforce diversity.”

It isn’t Florida’s first strike against the ESG movement.

In August, Gov. Ron DeSantis passed a resolution “directing the state of Florida’s fund managers to invest state funds in a manner that prioritizes the highest return on investment for Florida’s taxpayers and retirees without considering the ideological agenda of the environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) movement.”

“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 at the time. “With the resolution we passed today, the tax dollars and proxy votes of the people of Florida will no longer be commandeered by Wall Street financial firms and used to implement policies through the board room that Floridians reject at the ballot box. We are reasserting the authority of republican governance over corporate dominance and we are prioritizing the financial security of the people of Florida over whimsical notions of a utopian tomorrow.”

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Melissa Fine

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