Asset managers have repeatedly leveraged Nevadans’ pension funds to push for racial equity initiatives and climate-related proposals within publicly traded companies since 2022, according to a report from conservative watchdog group American Accountability Foundation (AAF).
Nevada Public Employee Retirement System (NVPERS) enlists the services of asset managers including BlackRock, AllianceBernstein, Mellon Capital and State Street Global Advisors (SSGA), who collectively manage over $30 billion of NVPERS’ stock portfolio. However, these asset managers have used Nevada pension funds to back environmental, social and governance (ESG) shareholder resolutions on various issues related to race, gender and climate, according to documents AAF obtained through a public records request. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Attorney General Ken Paxton Sends Warning To Companies Using ESG Practices)
BlackRock, State Street, & Vanguard manage over $20 trillion of our money, yet use that $$ to vote for “racial equity audits” & “emissions caps” that don’t maximize shareholder value. They’re retreating from the term “ESG” now that it’s become toxic, but they’re just using…
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) January 24, 2024
“This is a gross and irresponsible misuse of public funds and an outrageous attempt to get around our constitutional system and force policies on Americans they never voted for,” AAF president Tom Jones told the DCNF. “Every state pension fund must take a hard look at who is running their investments, and make sure it is being invested solely with the aim of getting taxpayers and pensioners the best returns.”
NVPERS manages pension funds for Nevada public employees, including “teachers, police officers, firefighters, city, county, and State of Nevada employees, among others,” according to the system’s website.
AAF discovered 201 instances of asset managers voting in favor of shareholder proposals on “racial equity audits, gender pay gap reports, efforts to defund conservative groups and trade associations, and radical climate policy,” it asserts. Groups, companies or individuals holding shares in publicly traded companies often present resolutions aimed at compelling corporate boards to take action on various measures, such as assessing climate emissions or conducting racial equity audits.
Rather than focusing solely on maximizing financial returns, these resolutions frequently prioritize ESG issues, AAF’s report alleges. Certain prominent asset managers who endorse ESG principles leverage their substantial holdings — constituting their clients’ investments — to cast votes in favor of these resolutions.
For instance, AllianceBernstein leveraged NVPERS’ pension funds to vote in favor of a “racial equity audit” proposal at Comcast, according to the records AAF obtained. Service Employees International Union Master Trust put forward the shareholder resolution to push the “Board of Directors to oversee an independent racial equity audit analyzing Comcast’s adverse impacts on nonwhite stakeholders and communities of color and describing the steps, if any, Comcast plans to take to mitigate those impacts.”
When a movement consisting of Walmart, Amazon and Wall Street workers, dubbed United for Respect, introduced a “racial equity audit” proposal at Walmart, AllianceBernstein pushed to support this as well, according to the report.
“A racial equity audit would help Walmart identify, prioritize, remedy and avoid adverse impacts on nonwhite stakeholders and communities of color,” the proposal states. “We urge Walmart to assess its behavior through a racial equity lens in order to obtain a complete picture of how it contributes to, and could help dismantle, social and economic inequality.
AllianceBernstein and BlackRock both used NVPERS’ funds to back the Comptroller of the State of New York’s proposal for a report on political donations and spending at Caesars Entertainment, according to the report.
“Without knowing the recipients of our company’s political dollars we cannot sufficiently assess whether our company’s election-related spending aligns or conflicts with its policies on climate change and sustainability, or other areas of concern,” the proposal states.
NVPERS denied that the pension funds are used for furthering any social or political agendas in a statement to the DCNF.
“Nevada PERS does not utilize the System’s assets to advance any social or political agendas,” NVPERS Chief Investment Officer Steve Edmundson told the DCNF. Edmundson pointed the DCNF to NVPERS investment policies, which asset managers are also required to follow, that unequivocally prohibit political and social influence.
“Nevada PERS only invests assets in the best economic interest of our members and beneficiaries,” he added. “We do not incorporate secondary social or political considerations in our investment process.”
Edmundson did not address the specific shareholder proposals when asked to by the DCNF.
AllianceBernstein and BlackRock used NVPERS’ shares to support multiple resolutions on gender and racial pay gaps, according to AAF’s memo. Mellon Capital and SSGA used NVPERS’ shares to support numerous climate resolutions, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
ESG funds prioritizing environmental and social investments lost $2.7 billion in the third quarter of 2023 as demand among investors plummeted, according to Morningstar. Critics say ESG initiatives are not in the best fiduciary interest of shareholders.
AllianceBernstein and SSGA did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment. Mellon Capital declined to comment.
BlackRock pointed the DCNF to its “2023 global voting spotlight,” which states, “Our sole focus when we engage with companies or vote at shareholder meetings is to advance our clients’ financial interests.”
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