Those companies are:
- BNP Paribas
- Credit Suisse Group
- Danske Bank
- Jupiter Fund Management
- Nordea Bank
- Schroders PLC
- Svenska Handelsbanken
- UBS Group
Almost 350 investment funds from a variety of firms were identified in the second annex of the comptroller’s list and will also be subject to the divestment order.
“The environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) movement has produced an opaque and perverse system in which some financial companies no longer make decisions in the best interest of their shareholders or their clients, but instead use their financial clout to push a social and political agenda shrouded in secrecy,” Comptroller Glenn Hegar said in a statement.
“Our review focused on the boycott of energy companies, rather than a review of the entire ESG movement. This research uncovered a systemic lack of transparency that should concern every American regardless of political persuasion, especially the use of doublespeak by some financial institutions as they engage in anti-oil and gas rhetoric publicly yet present a much different story behind closed doors.”
The list will be a running tally that may add or remove entities as developments occur as frequently as each quarter.
“State governmental entities subject to the investment prohibitions and divestment requirements in the statute include: Employees Retirement System of Texas, Teacher Retirement System of Texas, Texas Municipal Retirement System, Texas County and District Retirement System, Texas Emergency Services Retirement System and the Permanent School Fund,” reads the release.
State entities have 30 days to notify the comptroller about their holdings in each offending company.
The process of narrowing down a list of offenders was kicked into gear last November when Hegar joined 14 other state fiscal officers in a letter to U.S. banks, threatening to pull state dollars if they spurn fossil fuel industry financing.
In March, the comptroller released a preliminary list of 19 companies that fit the category of harboring fossil fuel divestment policies. Letters were sent to those companies requesting clarification; half of those entities made it onto the final list.
His office sent a letter to 150 other companies about individual funds offered that reject fossil fuel investment.
The directive stems from Senate Bill 13, passed by the legislature last year, which tasks the comptroller with identifying fossil fuel-boycotting companies and removing any public investments from their portfolios. The other part of SB 13, which has been effective since passage, is that state entities are prohibited from signing onto new or renewed contracts with any company that doesn’t attest that it isn’t “boycott[ing] energy companies.”
Back in January, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick called for BlackRock to be placed “at the top of the list” of fossil fuel-boycotting companies after statements made by its CEO Larry Fink about “decarbonize[ing] the economy.”
BlackRock has repeatedly denied the accusations of fossil fuel divestment, but the comptroller’s investigation ruled otherwise.
“We disagree with the Comptroller’s opinion. This is not a fact-based judgment,” BlackRock told The Texan in a statement. “BlackRock does not boycott fossil fuels — investing over $100 billion in Texas energy companies on behalf of our clients proves that.”
“Elected and appointed public officials have a duty to act in the best interests of the people they serve. Politicizing state pension funds, restricting access to investments, and impacting the financial returns of retirees, is not consistent with that duty. Texans deserve access to the full range of asset managers, and investment opportunities, that can help them meet their retirement goals. We are proud to play our part.”
While Hegar’s announcement is directed at only one aspect of the broader ESG movement aimed at sanctioning and divesting from fossil fuel producers, state officials have increasingly placed it within its crosshairs.
State Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) announced in May that he will file a bill prohibiting banks operating in Texas from refusing financing to fossil fuel companies on the basis of the product they create. Similar legislation passed last year with the same concept but for gun manufacturers.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has also announced an investigation, in tandem with other state attorneys general, into BlackRock over statements about ESG and transitioning toward a “net-zero” energy future. BlackRock — along with State Street, Vanguard, and Institutional Shareholder Services — is being investigated by the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs on similar grounds.
Earlier this year, the Texas Employee Retirement System voted by proxy in favor of various corporate proposals at U.S. banks prohibiting new fossil fuel financing. The pension fund said it was a miscommunication by the entity’s proxy service Institutional Shareholder Services. The pension said afterward that it would fix the issue.
“My greatest concern is the false narrative that has been created by the environmental crusaders in Washington, D.C., and Wall Street that our economy can completely transition away from fossil fuels, when, in fact, they will be part of our everyday life into the foreseeable future,” Hegar said.
“A complete divestment of the industry is not only impractical and illogical but runs counter to the economic well-being of Texas and our citizens.”
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.