State treasurers spoke out against the imposition of environmental, social and governance (ESG) scoring on public money in a June 8 press conference, with one official comparing it to the social justice-driven push for universal homeownership that helped trigger the Great Recession.
“I would be very concerned about investing in green energy right now,” said Utah State Treasurer Marlo Oaks, in response to a question from The Epoch Times.
He did not rule out the possibility of an ESG bubble similar to the housing one that burst during the late 2000s—an event that drove the nation’s worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
That bubble was inflated in part by two government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Beginning in earnest with the Clinton administration’s 1995 National Homeownership Strategy, which committed to “expanding creative financing” for home buyers, the firms continually reduced the requirements for loans.
By 2006, fully 43 percent of first-time home buyers put down no deposit, according to a study from the National Association of Realtors.
In contrast to the “invisible hand”—Adam Smith’s metaphor for the operation of the free market—Oaks sees ESG as an “invisible fist.”
Oaks was one signatory to an April 21 letter from Utah’s governor, senators, congressional representatives and other public officials in response to S&P Global’s issuance of ESG ratings for US states and territories.
“Considering recent global events, the current economic situation in the United States, and the unreliability and inherently political nature of ESG factors in investment decisions, we view this newfound focus on ESG as politicizing the ratings process.
“It is deeply counterproductive, misleading, potentially damaging to the entities being rated, and possibly illegal,” Oaks and his colleagues argued in that letter.
Idaho officials sent a similar letter to S&P Global on May 18. They echoed the Utah letter’s concerns with the firm’s scoring of American energy companies relative to some of their foreign counterparts.