Americans Must Fight Against ESG Agenda to Save Economy, Way of Life: West Virginia Treasurer

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West Virginia recently joined a growing number of states to divest from companies that are implementing global environmental, social, and governance standards (ESG) that demonize fossil fuels and prioritize social justice initiatives.

Because West Virginia’s economy relies heavily on fossil fuel revenue, state Treasurer Riley Moore has put these ESG companies on a restricted list, terminating existing contracts and stopping them from bidding on further contracts.

“It is something that would ultimately destroy our economy, our people, and our way of life,” Moore said during a recent interview for EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders” program that will air at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 22. “The ‘E’ is the most near-term immediate threat, because it’s the rapid transition to green energy.”

The West Virginia Legislature passed a law in March prohibiting investment of the state’s retirement funds into companies that push ESG climate activism.

Moore said everyone with a 401(k) or pension plan is affected by the investments, regardless of whether they agree with the principles and initiatives promoted by these companies.

“They’re using your money to push their goals, and people need to wake up to this and figure out exactly what they’re invested in, whether State Street or Vanguard or BlackRock,” he said. “If you’re in one of those funds, you’re likely helping fund this entire ESG movement.”

Shareholders and retirees are being left out of the ESG equation, Moore said.

401(k) plan
401(k) documents are shown in this file photo. (Maksim Shchur/Shutterstock)

Instead, companies are “talking about stakeholders, disparate groups and organizations that somehow have some influence over the way that they’re going to invest their dollars,” he said. “At the end of the day, they’re going to end up having some level of monopolistic power in the ability to shape society.”

A group of corporate elites at financial firms like BlackRock, State Street, and Vanguard—which together control more than $20 trillion worth of investments—are pressuring the CEOs of companies to divest from things like fossil fuels, lumber, firearms, and other industries deemed to be problematic or out of alignment with ESG goals.

Critics say the ESG standards are of no benefit to the shareholders, the working people whose retirement is invested in these companies, but instead advance a global monopoly, making fewer people richer. Many ESG companies have pledged to put green energy over fossil fuels.

Vivek Ramaswamy, author of the book “Woke Inc.” and founder of STRIVE Asset Management, agrees with Moore and said his new investment company is putting people over politics, and that ESG is the single biggest threat to capitalism and democracy.

This ESG movement in the private sector “is doing through the back door what government could not directly get done through the front door and the Constitution,” Ramaswamy told EpochTV’s “Crossroads” program during a September interview.

”The asset managers, the rating agencies, the banks, they’re all coordinated in this effort,” said Moore.

Rating agencies give ESG scores to companies, and the companies are forced to adopt ESG standards or lose investment capital, most of which comes from Americans’ hard-earned retirement funds, added Moore.

Americans live in a constitutional republic and should not allow a group of corporate oligarchs to decide how their money will be invested to shape society the way the oligarchs see fit, said Moore.

Tesla car
A Tesla Model 3 car at a Tesla showroom at a shopping mall in Beijing on April 29, 2022. (Jade Gao/AFP via Getty Images)
Epoch Times Photo
Tesla CEO Elon Musk gives interviews as he arrives at the Offshore Northern Seas 2022 meeting in Stavanger, Norway, on Aug. 29, 2022. (Carina Johansen/NTB/AFP via Getty Images)

Recently, Tesla Inc., a company with with an overarching goal to end the use of gas-powered cars, was dropped from the S&P 500 top 10 ESG ratings list.

“Exxon is rated top ten best in the world for the environment, social & governance (ESG) by S&P 500, while Tesla didn’t make the list! ESG is a scam. It has been weaponized by phony social justice warriors,” wrote Musk in a May 18 Twitter post.

“If you don’t think this is political, it’s very obviously political,” Moore said of Tesla’s ESG scores dropping recently. Moore argues that companies need to focus on financial returns for their investors instead of ESG factors.

“People need to ask the question, at the end of the day, how do greenhouse gas emissions affect the maximization of return on someone’s pension plan for that beneficiary? How do greenhouse gas emissions affect the quarters of a given company? It doesn’t,” said Moore.

“What we need here is for the free market to remain free,” he said.

Epoch Times Photo
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink leaves after a meeting about climate action investments with heads of sovereign wealth funds and the French president at the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 10, 2019. (Ludovic Martin/AFP via Getty Images)

BlackRock’s Hypocrisy

The mammoth investment firm BlackRock is a major stakeholder in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) PetroChina company, which is not subject to the environmental standards (“E” in ESG) that American companies are held to, said Moore.

“China is building 55 brand new coal-fired power plants. We haven’t built a new coal-fired power plant in this country since like, the 1970s,” said Moore.

Nor is PetroChina held to the social standards (“S” in ESG) because China is a major human rights abuser, he said.

BlackRock’s patriotism is not toward America, “it’s towards their globalist, left-wing ideology and their agenda, and the maximization of their influence in the world and politics,” said Moore.

People might object to West Virginia’s move to restrict these companies, but “what I am doing is speaking on behalf of the taxpayers of my state, my constituents, and this is a free market solution,” said Moore.

Taking it a step further, Moore terminated West Virginia’s liquidity fund investment with BlackRock, which was over a billion dollars.

BlackRock has helped to destroy West Virginia’s steel industry by moving jobs overseas to countries like China, Moore said.

China factory
A worker makes an iron bar at a steel factory in Lianyungang, in China’s eastern Jiangsu Province, on Feb. 12, 2021. (AFP via Getty Images)

Restricted Institutions List

BlackRock, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo are on West Virginia’s list of restricted financial institutions.

It is through restricting these ESG-centered companies that states will keep their economies growing, said Moore. After West Virginia passed the boycott bill, Moore sent letters to six financial institutions accused of boycotting fossil fuels, and in response one of these companies, U.S. Bank, reversed its policy.

This was a big win for West Virginia and for free markets because U.S. Bank is the fifth largest bank in the country based on the assets under its management.

A flood of financial institutions contacted Moore and said they are not involved with ESG and want to do business with West Virginia.

Epoch Times Photo
An environmental activist with the group Extinction Rebellion DC scales the Wilson Building next to a sign that reads “No New Fossil Fuels” as part of an Earth Day rally against fossil fuels in Washington on April 22, 2022. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

More States Stand Against ESG

Not all the states restricting business with ESG companies are fossil fuel states, but they are “patriots” that want to preserve a free market economy and want the United States to be energy independent, and they don’t believe in the ESG agenda, Moore said.

States including Arizona, Florida, and North Dakota have enacted anti-ESG laws, prohibiting the state from investing in strategies that push the ESG agenda for any reason other than maximizing investment for retirees. Pennsylvania has also introduced an anti-ESG bill.

Besides West Virginia, other states like Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Texas have enacted boycott laws usually aimed at ESG companies for their anti-fossil fuel stance, but sometimes related to industries like logging. States that have similar bills working their way through the legislative process are Louisiana, Indiana, Idaho, Minnesota, South Carolina, and Utah.

Some states are creating laws to prohibit investment in companies that are anti-firearms, including Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

California storm
Windmills and power lines near Tracy, Calif., on Aug. 17, 2022. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

ESG Threat to Energy and Security

Moore is concerned about the threat these companies pose at the state and national level to outsource jobs to places like China, which are known to have direct links to the People’s Liberation Army, China’s military.

This ESG agenda, particularly the environmental aspect, is influencing Europe’s energy sector and creating an energy shortfall for countries, especially the ones that rely on Russia for energy. Moore thinks if the United States continues to prioritize ESG, the country will face the same consequence of higher energy prices, which will become unsustainable.

“They’ve done it to themselves,” he said of Europe, “and we’re doing it to ourselves.”

California’s rolling blackouts have been brought on by the state’s full embrace of the ESG agenda, Moore said.

“It’s the greatest example of, when you just let this thing go and you don’t stand up against it, that’s going to happen, and it’s hurting the average American,” said Moore.

Epoch Times Photo
Vivek Ramaswamy, co-founder of Strive, during an interview in Orlando, Fla., on March 8, 2022. (Tal Atzmon/The Epoch Times)

Since much of the American energy industry has been captured by the ESG agenda, Ramaswamy’s asset management company will first focus on this sector, bringing companies on board to eliminate ESG and put profits before politics.

In addition, his company will not build asset management in China.

“You capture a bigger opportunity here at home through the 150-plus million Americans who actually are underserved by the financial industry and by the asset managers who serve them today,” said Ramaswamy.

“When you have the government using companies as a vehicle to advance a governmental agenda, that’s not capitalism,” he said. “That’s corporatism.”

Masooma Haq

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Masooma Haq began reporting for The Epoch Times from Pakistan in 2008. She currently covers a variety of topics including U.S. government, culture, and entertainment.

Jan Jekielek

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Jan Jekielek is a senior editor with The Epoch Times and host of the show, “American Thought Leaders.” Jan’s career has spanned academia, media, and international human rights work. In 2009 he joined The Epoch Times full time and has served in a variety of roles, including as website chief editor. He is the producer of the award-winning Holocaust documentary film “Finding Manny.”





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