State Officials, Experts Alarmed by Woke Capital Onslaught
As American corporations continue an unprecedented pattern of activism in support of controversial social issues, pension fund investment firms are following suit. Investment giants like BlackRock, State Street, and Vanguard have been outspoken in their support of hotly debated issues like gender identity and climate change, which is causing alarm among state officials and financial experts.
Last week, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) took action by issuing an opinion stating that activist actions on behalf of state employee pension plans is a violation of state law.
“Teachers … police officers, firefighters, and other public employees who have obviously invested their money in these pensions are hoping for the biggest return they can get,” Cameron told Tony Perkins on “Washington Watch.” “But a lot of these investment fund managers have different priorities, which is … wanting to push their value system on the rest of us. … [T]his is not their money, this is not the investment manager’s money. This is not the fund index’s money. It’s your money. It’s your listeners’ money.”
Stephen Soukup, vice president of the investment consulting service Political Forum Institute, described how he started seeing corporate America move to the Left “20 years ago” in a “Washington Watch” interview in April 2021. “It’s only started to take on a much more sinister [and] aggressive tone … within the past 10 or 15 years,” he noted.
What particularly concerns Soukup is the actions of BlackRock. “Larry Fink, who is the CEO of BlackRock, which is the largest asset management firm in the world with almost $9 trillion in assets under management, has made it clear over the past two years that he believes that there is a certain social and environmental standard that his company wishes for the companies that they invest in to maintain. And if they do not maintain those standards, his firm — with its $9 trillion in leverage — will punish them and will move to change management and to change directors.”
Even so, Soukup went on to underscore that ordinary citizens are far from powerless in having a say in where they want their retirement account assets to go. “Take back the capital that you’ve invested in your retirement fund, in your 401k and your IRA — and use that more specifically to invest in funds or in corporations that don’t promote political ideas above shareholder value,” he pointed out. He went on to suggest looking over quarterly statements to make sure companies like BlackRock, State Street, and Vanguard are not involved. “They are directly contributing to this idea that corporations should be overtly political.”
Major investors who want to keep assets separate from “woke” activism are also beginning to chart a new course by starting entirely new investment firms. In May, the formation of Strive Asset Management was announced, which is led by the former biotech executive Vivek Ramaswamy. A press release stated that the company’s mission is to “restor[e] the voices of everyday citizens in the American economy by leading companies to focus on excellence over politics.” It went on to state that BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street have “engage[d] in coordinated efforts to enact a uniform social agenda across corporate America resulting in higher gas prices and other consumer harms, which Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) recently called ‘the biggest antitrust violation in history.’”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.