Swing-State Pension Funds Go Woke

(Republican Insider) – Pension funds in the state of Arizona are now being utilized to help push forward resolutions related to the controversial issues of racial equity and climate-change within publicly traded companies, as per a brand new report published by a conservative watchdog group known as the American Accountability Foundation, or AFF. This is absolutely appalling. People work their whole lives earning a pension to ensure they have enough cash to live on post retirement. Now it’s being used as part of a redistribution scheme by the left to help further their own agenda.

Jason Cohen of the Daily Caller is reporting, “Arizona State Retirement System (ASRS) used Arizonans’ pension funds to back environmental, social and governance (ESG) shareholder resolutions on issues including race, gender, climate and politics, according to documents AAF obtained through a public records request. ASRS utilizes proxy advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis, who have each expressed support for ESG initiatives.”

“That Arizona retirees’ pension funds are being used to promote economically disastrous ESG policies should alarm every single state taxpayer, regardless of political affiliation,” Arizona state senator Jake Hoffman remarked during an interview with the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Taxpayers entrust ASRS to provide and vigorously advocate for the retirements and other benefits for state employees — not to prioritize woke policies like ‘racial equity’ audits and defunding the American Left’s perceived political adversaries.”

The AFF stated that they discovered a total of 183 instances where the ASRS cast votes in favor of what the group calls “woke” proposals from shareholders. Some of these proposals include “racial equity audits, gender pay gap reports, efforts to defund conservative candidates and pro-business trade associations, radical climate policy, and pro-abortion initiatives.”

One example mentioned is when ASRS voted in favor of a resolution for a “third-party, independent racial equity audit analyzing Walmart’s adverse impacts on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities,” which comes from United for Respect, an organization composed of Walmart, Amazon, and several other major retail companies.

ASRS also casts its own votes.

“The Arizona State Retirement System acts in the best interests of the members and beneficiaries of the retirement system,” ASRS public affairs and media relations manager David Cannella noted in a conversation with the DCNF.

“Over 500,000 Arizona public servants are members of the ASRS, including state employees and personnel from schools in all 15 counties of the state, according to the system’s website. The system manages investments consisting of nearly $12 billion in U.S. stocks, according to documents it sent to AAF,” Cohen wrote in his article. “ASRS paid $49,000 to ISS and $20,000 to Glass Lewis in 2023, according to its financial report. The proxy votes in AAF’s report took place in 2022 and 2023.”

“Pension fund and other clients of ISS can choose which voting guidelines best reflect the views of their underlying beneficiaries,” ISS went on to tell the DCNF. The proxy adviser also gave the folks at the DCNF an example featuring one of their clients that specifically advocates against ESG proposals.

Both of these firms have advocated for ESG initiatives, saying these policies are in the best interest of investors. They currently dominate with over 97 percent of the proxy advisory service market.

Firms that deal with oil, gas, and consumable fuels are “slow to transition to a low-carbon economy, thus posing a long-term financial risk,” an ISS document focused on “insights” by the ESG executives said.

“ISS has a section of its website dedicated to ESG, which states, ‘ESG has gone from niche and narrow to a necessary part of institutional investing and asset management … ISS ESG can meet your needs for investment decision-making and active ownership,'” Cohen’s piece divulged.

“ESG issues are often voting considerations when they are submitted in the form of a shareholder proposal,” a 2021 policy paper that was published by Glass Lewis disclosed. “When there is a clear link between the subject of a shareholder proposal and value enhancement or risk mitigation, Glass Lewis will recommend in favor of such proposal where the company has inadequately addressed the issue. We strongly believe that shareholders should seek to promote governance structures that protect shareholders, support effective ESG oversight and reporting, and encourage director accountability.”

“Institutional investors are increasingly recognizing the importance of incorporating material environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into their investment processes,” it goes on to say. “[T]he ESG Policy allows clients to apply these enhanced ESG considerations when voting at the annual and special meetings of their portfolio companies.”

The article also revealed that funds which are for investing into green energy companies had investment outflows of $4.8 billion during the first quarter of the year. ASRS supported a resolution at Chevron to get the oil giant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to make the company in alignment with the Paris Climate agreement.

In conclusion, Cohen writes, “Asset managers also leveraged Nevadans’ pension funds to advance similar proposals, the DCNF previously reported based on another public records request by AAF. Nevada Public Employee Retirement System enlists the services of asset managers like BlackRock, AllianceBernstein, Mellon Capital and State Street Global Advisors, who collectively manage over $30 billion of the system’s stock portfolio.”

Copyright 2024. RepublicanInsider.org

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