(The Center Square) – Specific asset managers of Missouri State Employees' Retirement System's investments will no longer be allowed proxy voting for publicly traded companies.
Missouri Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, one of 11 members of the MOSERS Board of Trustees, distributed a media release last week stating he led an effort to protect the retirement funds "from being used by activist investment managers to advance left-wing social and political causes which are harmful to shareholders and violated their fiduciary obligations to Missourians."
Proxy voting allows shareholders to direct companies' decisions and elect their board members. The MOSERS' Investment Policy Statement, effective Nov. 18, 2018, states the "Chief Investment Officer will establish a proxy voting policy, if and when participating in proxy voting, which ensures that the interests of the System are adequately protected."
The release stated Fitzpatrick, who was appointed Treasurer in 2019, elected to a full term in 2020 and is a candidate for State Auditor this year, worked with MOSERS staff and other board members on a plan to remove proxy voting power given to companies managing assets. A new proxy voting policy will be presented by the MOSERS Board Investment Committee to the full board for approval and, until then, MOSERS staff will abstain from voting the proxies, according to the release.
A Board of Trustees agenda posted to the MOSERS website for last week's meeting showed Vivek Ramaswamy of Strive Asset Management was presenting on "Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)" and TJ Carlson, MOSERS Chief Investment Officer and Abby Spieler, MOSERS general counsel, were scheduled to speak on ESG and a discussion on proxy voting. Ramaswamy's book, "Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America's Social Justice Scam," was a bestseller.
Fitzgerald's release said asset managers who are "advancing Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investment strategies used their proxy power to elect climate radicals to the board of Exxon, causing the company to scrap previously planned expansions in oil and gas production, and instead cut production. This decision has not only negatively impacted shareholders, but has contributed to skyrocketing prices at the pump for Missourians."
Fitzpatrick's release highlighted Blackrock, Inc., as exercising "immense power they have amassed, by virtue of speaking on behalf of the customers whose money they are investing, to advance political causes that would be contrary to the wishes of most Missourians and which sacrifices return on investment for their customers."
MOSERS 2021 Annual Report showed Blackrock as a multi-asset style investment, managed a portfolio of $926 million and charged fees of $440,112. The other multi-asset manager is NISA Investment Advisors, an employee-owned firm based in St. Louis, with a portfolio of $2.6 billion and fees of $5.7 million.
"We should not allow asset managers such as Blackrock, who have demonstrated that they will prioritize advancing a woke political agenda above the financial interests of their customers, to continue speaking on behalf of the state of Missouri," Fitzpatrick said in a statement. "It is past time that all investors recognize the massive fiduciary breach that is taking place before our eyes, and do something about it."