The world’s largest financial institutions that do business with Oklahoma were put on notice by the state Wednesday that they’re at risk of losing billions of dollars in business if they engage in climate-friendly investment practices that Republicans call “woke capitalism.”
Oklahoma State Treasurer Todd Russ, a Republican, sent a questionnaire to Wall Street firms BlackRock, JPMorgan, State Street, Vanguard and dozens of others that will determine which corporations “boycott energy companies” because of the engagement in environmental, social and governance investing, or ESG.
Oklahoma will cease business and divest pension funds, such as the Oklahoma Public Retirement System and the Teachers Retirement System, from the companies that answer favorably toward ESG.
The move is part of a broader endeavor by red states across the country to combat ESG, which GOP officials say threatens fossil fuels and energy companies vital to their state economies.
Behemoth asset manager BlackRock is at risk of losing $10 billion alone for managing the state’s Public Retirement System, Mr. Russ warned. Other states last year cumulatively divested more than $4 billion from the firm, political pressure that pales vs. its more than $8 trillion assets under management, but that has forced the company to go on defense.
“After review, your company may appear on the State of Oklahoma’s list of financial companies that boycott energy companies,” Mr. Russ wrote to the firms in a letter attached with the questionnaire. “Such a listing will prohibit Oklahoma governmental entities from investing in and may potentially require divestment from your company, your company’s affiliates and subsidiaries, or investment vehicles affiliated with your company, its affiliates or subsidiaries.”
The questionnaire does not mention ESG directly but poses dozens of related questions, including whether the corporations have any environmental pledges, if they’re members of the financial climate alliance Net Zero Asset Managers initiative and what their investment policies are regarding fossil fuels.
“I took office on January 9th and began compiling a list of companies, banks and other entities that act against Oklahoma’s interests because of their ESG stance,” Mr. Russ said in a statement. “It is my responsibility to ensure Oklahoman’s tax dollars will not be used to enrich organizations that act counter to our taxpayers’ interests and our values.”
Some of the largest targeted companies, including Vanguard, State Street and JPMorgan, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
BlackRock rejected the accusation it “boycotts” energy companies, telling The Washington Times that it currently has more than $200 billion invested in fossil fuels on behalf of clients in Oklahoma and elsewhere.
“BlackRock’s sole focus is delivering the best long-term financial results consistent with our clients’ investment goals,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “We look forward to engaging with the Oklahoma treasurer to discuss how BlackRock serves our clients’ interests in Oklahoma and elsewhere, including over $20 billion of investments in Oklahoma-based public companies made on behalf of our clients and managing public pensions for more than 73,000 Oklahoma beneficiaries.”
Mr. Russ‘ list was composed of 181 finance firms, which have 60 days to respond. No response will result in automatic divestment or termination of state business.
The anti-ESG action follows an Oklahoma law, the Energy Discrimination Elimination Act, that took effect last year. It requires the state treasurer to determine which financial companies are anti-fossil fuels and bar them from managing public funds.