West Virginia State Treasurer Moore Joins Other Finance Officials Opposed to ESG | News, Sports, Jobs

State Treasurer Riley Moore joined other state finance officials on Wednesday in opposing the trend of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing. (Photo courtesy of WV Legislative Photography)

CHARLESTON — State Treasurer Riley Moore and other state finance officials are warning that the tendency of financial institutions to base investments on non-financial factors, such as environmental and social issues, is a “progressive trojan horse” to circumvent the normal political process. Moore was part of a virtual panel Wednesday morning hosted by the State Financial Officers Foundation, a nonprofit made up of 27 Republican state treasurers and auditors in 23 states. The topic of discussion was ESG, short for environmental, social and governance. ESG is a form of investment in companies by financial institutions based on factors that go beyond financial matters. Financial institutions and investors use ESG to determine investment strategies based on a company’s commitment to the environment or climate change, social justice, and how a company treats its workforce in the areas of fairness.
“It started with this idea of ​​trying to invest in a socially responsible way,” said Moore. “Now they are trying to impress their values ​​and their worldview on all of us without a single vote being taken by anyone in the country.”
Moore spoke about West Virginia’s efforts to fight ESG investing as it relates to financial institutions the state does business with by using their power to punish coal and natural gas companies.
“We are an energy state. We produce coal, gas and oil,” said Moore. “This ESG movement, in its current form, is truly an existential threat to our jobs, our economy and our tax revenues. We generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue from coal and gas specifically. »
The Office of the State Treasurer helped draft Senate Bill 262, passed in the 2022 legislative session and signed into law by Governor Jim Justice. SB 262 authorizes the Office of the State Treasurer to restrict banking contracts with any bank or investment group that has refused to do business with coal or natural gas companies or is terminating contracts with existing fossil fuel companies in order to punish companies that do not meet ESG standards. The new law requires the Office of the State Treasurer to maintain a public list of restricted financial institutions. Any bank on the shortlist would not be able to enter into new financial contracts with the state or remain in current contracts until it is able to show that it no longer commits in the boycott of energy companies.
“I had to do something to start fighting against that,” said Moore. “We felt like we had a clear conflict of interest for financial institutions to manage our dollars who, at the same time, are trying to diminish our dollars and destroy our industries. That’s why we recently passed a bill here that will allow me to put financial institutions on a denial list where they can no longer contract with the state for financial services, banking contracts and things like that nature.
SB 262 applies to banks, banking associations, investment firms, savings and loan companies, credit unions, savings banks, or any institution where the state could potentially deposit taxpayer funds. The state treasurer’s office manages more than $7 billion among nearly 30 depositors. Moore said the public list of companies on the banned list is expected to be released soon. Prior to the passage of SB 262, the Office of the State Treasurer already had the authority to withdraw from banking contracts on 30 days notice. Earlier this year, the Treasurer’s Office told BlackRock Inc., an investment management firm, that the state would no longer do business with the company, citing reports that BlackRock was urging companies it had invested in to s commit to “net zero” energy policies, reducing their greenhouse gas footprint and relying more on green energy sources. Last year, Moore was one of many finance officials from 15 states to write an open letter to the U.S. banking industry warning them against withdrawing investment from fossil fuel industries or making decisions about investments in based on political considerations.
“We have to keep fighting this, and that’s why we’re going to start taking assets away from the people who manage our dollars,” said Moore. “It doesn’t just hurt West Virginia; this is going to hurt everyone in the country… everyone who pays utility rates in the country is going to pay the price, as we have seen in Europe. So we all agree here that we have to keep fighting against that.
Steven Allen Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com.

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