DeSantis signs bill targeting ‘woke’ investments, ‘social credit scores’

By: - May 2, 2023 11:12 am

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation targeting “ESG” investing on May 2, 2023, in Jacksonville. Source: Screenshot/DeSantis Facebook

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Tuesday designed to ban “woke” investment policies that he claims represent “elite” efforts to impose a social agenda rather than ensure maximal returns on pension and other financial products.

The governor traveled to the Jacksonville Port Authority cruise terminal, accompanied by Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and House Speaker Paul Renner, to sign House Bill 3, the Government and Corporate Activism Act, into law.

“With that, ESG is officially DOA in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.

“Woke” is GOP shorthand for anything progressive.

The bill targets so-called ESG investing, which means applying environmental, social, and governmental criteria toward investments. In other words, considering how an investment would protect the environment, boost social cohesion, and ensure against cronyism and corruption within corporations.

To DeSantis and his supporters in the Legislature, however, the process is a way for leftists to promote policies they could never win at the ballot box.

“ESG is basically just window dressing for doing whatever these people want to do. And if you go to a place like Davos, you know, they’ll all meet and they’ll say you’ve got to do all this and then they try to impose that agenda,” the governor said.

Davis, Switzerland, is site of the Annual World Economic Forum, where business, political, and cultural leaders gather to promote “stakeholder capitalism,” defined as taking into consideration all parties to economic affairs, including investors, employees, and society at large.

DeSantis considers that undemocratic.

“So, it’s really an elite-driven phenomenon. The ESG is just a way to kind of dress it up, but at the end of the day they’re trying to exercise power over our society. They’re trying to change society. They’re trying to change policy when it comes to things that they don’t like,” he said in Jacksonville.

In short, the bill forbids state or local governments from placing pension funds or depositing money with financial institutions that discriminate against customers based on their “political opinions, speech or affiliations,” or their religious beliefs.

It forbids use of any “social credit score” based on politics; religion, gun ownership or participation in the gun business; participation in the fossil fuel industry, timber, mining, or agriculture; or opposition to illegal immigration or drug or human trafficking.

More information here.

An investment expert predicted in August, during an interview with the Phoenix, that the legislation would do little to deter investors because these considerations can be material to whether an investment is sound.

“With this issue of ESG integration, that horse has left the barn and it’s in the next county and the barn has burned down and a new one has been built. That’s ages ago; it’s kind of settled. This is just about getting the best data to make the best decisions. That’s all it is,” said Matt Orsagh of the CFA Institute, which trains financial advisers.

The Sunrise Project concluded in January that banning ESG could hit states pursuing these policies with up to $708 million in combined added investment costs, including increases for Florida ranging from $97 million to $361 million. Those numbers represent extrapolations from a Wharton School of Business analysis of the anti-ESG law in Texas.

On Jan. 17, the State Board of Administration — comprising the Republican governor, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Patronis — voted to strip more than $200 billion in state and local government pension investments from managers that consider ESG criteria. Additionally, Patronis has moved $2 billion out of BlackRock, the big investment fund.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.